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About this poet

Alicia Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. Ostriker received a BA from Brandeis University in 1959 and an MA and PhD in literature, in 1961 and 1964 respectively, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She is the author of more than ten poetry collections, including Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017); The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Her numerous books of critical writing include Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986). She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976.

About Ostriker, the author Joyce Carol Oates writes, "[She] has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves."

In 2015, Ostriker was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University's low-residency poetry MFA program. She divides her time between New York City and Princeton, New Jersey.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)
The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010)
The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009)
The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)
The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)
The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Prose

Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000)
The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994)
Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986)

Waiting for the Light

                    for Frank O’Hara

Frank, we have become an urban species
     at this moment many millions of humans are
          standing on some corner waiting like me

for a signal permitting us to go,
     a signal depicting a small pale pedestrian
          to be followed by a sea-green light

we do not use this opportunity
     to tune in to eternity
          we bounce upon our toes impatiently

It is a Thursday morning, Frank, and I feel
     rather acutely alive but I need a thing of beauty
          or a theory of beauty to reconcile me

to the lumps of garbage I cannot love enclosed
     in these tough shiny black plastic bags
          heaped along the curb of 97th Street, my street—

like a hideous reminder of the fate we all expect
     letting the bulky slimy truth of waste
          attack our aesthetic sense and joie de vivre

reliably every Thursday. Let me scan the handsome amber
     columned and corniced dwellings
          reflected in rear windows of parked cars, let me wish

luck to their hives of intimacies, people
     in kitchens finishing a morning coffee
          saying see you later to the ones they live with

Let me raise my eyes to the blue veil adrift
     between and above the artifice of buildings
          and at last I am slipping through a flaw in time

where the string of white headlights approaching, the string
     of red taillights departing, seem as if
          they carry some kind of message

perhaps the message is that one block west
     Riverside Park extends its length
          at the edge of Manhattan like the downy arm

of a tender, amusing, beautiful lover,
     and after that is the deathless river
          but waiting for the light feels like forever

From Waiting for the Light, by Alicia Ostriker. Copyright © 2017. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

From Waiting for the Light, by Alicia Ostriker. Copyright © 2017. Reprinted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, Alicia Ostriker has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem
I am not lyric any more
I will not play the harp
for your pleasure

I will not make a joyful
noise to you, neither
will I lament

for I know you drink 
lamentation, too,
like wine

so I dully repeat
you hurt me
I hate you

I pull my eyes away from the hills
I will not kill for you
I will never love you again
poem
The downward turning touch
the cry of time
fire falling without sound
plunge my hand in the wound

children marching and dying
all that I do is a crime
because I do not reach
their mouths silently crying

my boychild reaches with his mouth
it is easy, being a mother
his skin is tender and soft
kisses stitch us
poem

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
washes right through you
like milk through a cow

To be blessed
said the dark red tulip
is to knock their eyes out
with the slug of lust
implied by
your up-ended
skirt

To be

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