poem index


Jay Parini

1948- , Pittston , PA , United States
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Jay Parini
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Jay Parini was born on April 2, 1948, in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and was raised in Scranton. He earned his AB in 1970 from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. During his junior year, he studied abroad at the University of Saint Andrews, Scotland, where he immediately returned after graduating from Lafayette to receive his PhD in 1975. It was during his time at the University of Saint Andrews that he began writing poetry. He published his first book of poems, Singing in Time (J. W. B. Laing, 1972), when he was a student there.

In 1975, Parini returned to the United States and began his academic career as an assistant English professor and director of the creative writing program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Two years later, he cofounded the New England Review with Sydney Lea. He later moved to Vermont, where he began his tenure as D. E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College in 1982.

Parini’s poetry collections include New and Collected Poems: 1975–2015 (Beacon Press, 2015), The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (Braziller, 2005), House of Days (Henry Holt, 1998), Town Life (Henry Holt, 1988), and Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982). His newest collection, West Mountain Epilogue, is forthcoming from Beacon Press.

Also a novelist, biographer, editor, and critic, Parini has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, and William Faulkner. His most recent novels include The Passages of H. M.: A Novel of Herman Melville (Doubleday, 2010), The Apprentice Lover (Harper Perennial, 2003), Benjamin’s Crossing (Holt, 1996), and The Last Station (Holt, 1990), which was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film.

Parini has received honorary degrees from Lafayette College and the University of Scranton and fellowships from Christ Church at Oxford University, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the School of Advanced Study (Institute of English Studies) at the University of London.

He currently teaches at Middlebury College and lives with his wife in Weybridge, Vermont.

Selected Bibliography


New and Collected Poems: 1975–2015 (Beacon Press, 2015)
The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (Braziller, 2005)
House of Days (Henry Holt and Co., 1998)
Town Life (Henry Holt and Co., 1988)
Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982)
Singing in Time (J. W. B. Laing, 1972)


The Passages of H. M.: A Novel of Herman Melville (Doubleday, 2010)
The Apprentice Lover (Harper Perennial, 2003)
Benjamin’s Crossing (Henry Holt and Co., 1996)
The Last Station (Henry Holt and Co., 1990)
The Love Run (Blue Moon Books, 1989)
The Patch Boys (Henry Holt and Co., 1986)


Jesus: The Human Face of God (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)
Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America (Doubleday, 2008)
Why Poetry Matters (Yale University Press, 2008)
The Art of Teaching (Oxford University Press, 2005)
One Matchless Time: A Life of William Faulkner (Harper Collins, 2004)
Robert Frost: A Life (Henry Holt and Co., 1999)
Some Necessary Angels (Columbia University Press, 1997)
John Steinbeck: A Biography (Henry Holt and Co., 1995)
An Invitation to Poetry (Prentice-Hall, 1987)
Theodore Roethke, an American Romantic (University of Massachusetts Press, 1979)


by this poet


My father in this lonely room of prayer
listens at the window
in the little house of his own dreams.

He has come a long way just to listen,
over seas and sorrow, through the narrow gate
of his deliverance.

And he dwells here now,
beyond the valley and the shadow, too,


Without syntax there is no immortality,
says my friend,
who has counted beads along a string
and understood that time is
water in a brook
or words in passage,
caravans amid the whitest dunes,
a team of horses in the mountain trace.

There is always movement, muttering,


The maples sweat now, out of season.
Buds pop eyes in wintry bushes
as the birds arrive, not having checked
the calendars or clocks. They scramble
in the frost for seeds, while underground
a sobbing starts in roots and tubers.
Ice cracks easily along the bank.
It slides in gullies