Reflected in the plate glass, the pies
look like clouds drifting off my shoulder.
I’m telling myself my face has character,
not beauty. It’s my mother’s Slavic face.
She washed the floor on hands and knees
below the Black Madonna, praying
to her god of sorrows and visions
Lynda Hull was born on December 5, 1954, in Newark, New Jersey. After coming of age in the suburbs, she ran away from home at the age of 16, having recently received a scholarship to Princeton. She married a Chinese immigrant from Shanghai and spent the next ten years moving among various Chinatowns in the United States and Canada.
By 1982, she had reconnected with her family and begun to study poetry seriously. While working toward an undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, she met the poet David Wojahn, who she later married in 1984. Over the next several years, she received graduate degrees from John Hopkins and Indiana Universities and lived briefly in a number of cities in the U.S. and Europe. Her longest permanent residency was in Chicago, where she was living when she wrote many of her last poems.
Her books of poetry include Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2006); The Only World: Poems (1995); Star Ledger: Poems (1991), which won the 1991 Carl Sandburg Award and the 1990 Edwin Ford Piper Award; and Ghost Money (1986), which won the Juniper Prize.
Influenced heavily by Hart Crane, (Hull had allegedly memorized his long poem The Bridge in its entirety), as well as jazz musicians (some of which she references), Hull wrote poems charged with lyric exuberance and haunted by ecstatic references to drugs and material decadence.
In his introduction to her Collected Poems, Yusef Komunyakaa wrote, "Hull's poetry creates tension through what the reader believes he or she knows; it juxtaposes moments that allude to public history alongside private knowledge. Thus, each poem challenges and coaxes the reader into an act of participation." About her work, the poet David St. John also wrote that "of all the poets of my generation, Lynda Hull remains the most heartbreaking, merciful, and consoling."
Hull was the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council; she also received four Pushcart Prizes. She taught English at Indiana University, De Paul University, and in the MFA writing program at Vermont College. She also served as a Poetry Editor for the journal Crazyhorse.
Hull died in an automobile accident in Plymouth, Massachusetts, on March 29, 1994.
Ghost Money (1986)
Star Ledger (1991)
The Only World (1995)
Collected Poems (2006)