poem index

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

occasions

About this poet

Joy Ladin was born in 1961 and received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1982. Ladin went on to earn an MFA in creative writing/poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1995 and a PhD in English from Princeton University in 2000.

Often devotional and at times based in history and utilizing sacred Jewish texts, Ladin’s early poetry “offers a personal view of the big truths,” writes Stanley Moss.

In 2007, Ladin became the first openly transgender employee of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution. Ladin has published numerous poetry collections, including The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017), Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015), Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009), The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007), and Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003).

Ladin is also the author of a memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). Ladin says, “When I started writing as myself, I started writing about feelings, tastes, colors, relationships, and I found myself writing with much more depth, confidence, authority and power, because I wasn’t hiding anymore. I had always lived in my writing, but now I was living in plain sight, living in truth, writing toward wholeness as a human being instead of trying to hide behind my words.”

Ladin is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Hadassah Brandeis Research Fellowship, two Forward Fives awards, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Ladin teaches at the Stern College of Yeshiva University, where she holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017)
Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017)
Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015)
The Definition of Joy (Sheep Meadow Press, 2012)
Coming to Life (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)
Psalms (Wipf & Stock, 2010)
Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009)
The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007)
Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003)

Prose
Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012)
Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (2010)

Survival Guide

No matter how old you are,
it helps to be young
when you’re coming to life,

to be unfinished, a mysterious statement,
a journey from star to star.
So break out a box of Crayolas

and draw your family
looking uncomfortably away
from the you you’ve exchanged

for the mannequin
they named. You should
help clean up, but you’re so busy being afraid

to love or not
you're missing the fun of clothing yourself
in the embarrassment of life.

Frost your lids with midnight;
lid your heart with frost;
rub them all over, the hormones that regulate

the production of love
from karmic garbage dumps.
Turn yourself into

the real you
you can only discover
by being other.

Voila! You’re free.
Learn to love the awkward silence
you are going to be.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

From The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something: New and Selected Poems (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by Joy Ladin. Used with the permission of the author.

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin is the author of Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015).

by this poet

poem

You’ve lost your soul again. Go back
to the window. Note the crocus
defying expectations

in the bed your mother hunkers over,
missing you, in her fashion,
now that you’re always there.

Why don’t you wear your uniform, she asks.
Will you ever get out of bed,

poem

My therapist says I'm afraid of vanishing.
Last week his ceiling caved in, ending our session
in a shower of words and water.
I'm serious. I'm always serious
when I talk about therapists and cave-ins.
This morning I'm serious in a train
sliding past a clock-tower constructed
when

poem

They’re reading Tarot cards right now,
in the little pink house with the sign in the yard.
Shadows spider across still-green lawn
whose fate, so far, defies the frosts.

Someone asks the right question,
draws the right card.
Many cups in the immediate future;
radiance pouring down

2