poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

In 1959, Eric Pankey was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of two accountants. In 1981, he received his BA from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and in 1983, his MFA from the University of Iowa.

When he was 25, his first collection of poems, For the New Year (Atheneum), was selected by Mark Strand as the winner of the 1984 Walt Whitman Award. He then began teaching English at the high school level and writing poetry, essays, and reviews in his spare time. In 1987, Pankey joined the faculty of Washington University at St. Louis, where he served as director of the creative writing program.

He is the author of twelve collections of poems, including Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017), Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015), and Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013).

About him, the poet Jane Hirshfield has said: "Eric Pankey is a poet of precise observation and startling particularities. His poems possess a sense of a self not the least self-regarding; they unbridle us into a freshened and metamorphic wordscape. The soundcraft is superb, the modes of investigation by turns lyrical, surreal, meditative, allegorical, direct-speaking, and allusive."

His honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

He is currently a professor of English and the Heritage Chair in Writing at George Mason University in Washington, D.C. He lives in Fairfax, Virginia.


Selected Bibliography

Augury (Milkweed Editions, 2017)
Crow-Work (Milkweed Editions, 2015)
Trace (Milkweed Editions, 2013)
Dismantling the Angel (Parlor Press, 2013)
The Pear As One Example: New and Selected Poems, 1984—2008 (Ausable Press, 2008)
Reliquaries (Ausable Press, 2005)
Oracle Figures (Ausable Press, 2003)
Cenotaph (Knopf, 2000)
The Late Romances (Knopf, 1997)
Apocrypha (Knopf, 1991)
Heartwood (Atheneum, 1988)
For the New Year (Atheneum, 1984)

Study for Salome Dancing Before Herod

In the movement toward disappearance, 
She is pulled by an undertow of ecstasy.
She wakes in a room where she never fell asleep.
A thousand starlings leaf-out a bare tree.
She wakes in a dusky, tenebrous zone.
Evening on the ridges and in the mountains,
But light still spills on the valley floor.
What transport brought her here?
The shape of gravity embodies a pear on the table.
Here time is the only sovereign.
She is like an arrow slipped from its quiver.

Copyright © 2010 by Eric Pankey. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2010 by Eric Pankey. Used with permission of the author.

Eric Pankey

Eric Pankey

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Eric Pankey's first collection, For the New Year, won the 1984 Walt Whitman Award.

by this poet

poem
One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the 
      redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering, 
                                                         memory seen 
        through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The
poem

1. Confederate Dead behind a Stone Wall at Fredericksburg, Virginia

Where the glass negative broke:
A silky, liquid black,
Like spilled scrivener’s ink,
Pools in the print’s margin.

                        : :

Mouth gone slack, eyes upward

poem

Beyond the traceries of the auroras,
The fires of tattered sea foam,
The ghost-terrain of submerged icebergs;
Beyond a cinder dome's black sands, 
Beyond peninsula and archipelago,
Archipelago and far-flung islands,
You have made of exile a homeland,
Voyager, and of that