Sunday, April 30, 2017

Monday's poet is Jay Parini

Jay Parini was born on April 2, 1948 in Pittston, Pennsylvania, and grew up  in nearby Scranton. He graduated from Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania in 1970 and five years later earned a doctorate from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. While still living in Scotland, he published his first book of poetry, Singing in Time (1972). Upon returning to the United States, he taught at Dartmouth College from 1975 to 1982 before accepting the position that he currently holds: teaching English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College in Vermont. In addition to his six volumes of poetry, Jay Parini has published widely in other genres: biography and biographical fiction, novels, literary criticism, and journalism. He has also edited several volumes, including The Columbia History of American Poetry, The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry, and three Breadloaf anthologies (poetry, short stories, and essays). His biographical novel, The Last Station, a chronicle of the final months in the life of Leo Tolstoy, has been translated into more than thirty languages and was adapted into an academy nominated film. His traditional biographical works include volumes on Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, William Faulkner, Gore Vidal, and Jesus. Recently he has published a New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 (Beacon Press, 2016), which includes selections from his previous collections Anthracite Country (Random House, 1982), Town Life (Henry Holt & Co., 1988), House of Days (Henry Holt & Co., 1998), and The Art of Subtraction: New and Selected Poems (George Braziller, 2005). For more information, see his website and blog at

In an interview with Paul Holler, Jay Parini explained, "I write because I like doing it. I can't wait to get out my notebook in the morning, and to start. I always begin the day by working on poetry. I love that moment, when I first open the blank page, and when I begin to hear the voice accumulating in my head, then transferring that energy to the page." 

This week's featured poem, "Hunch," from New and Collected Poems, 1975-2015 (Beacon Press, 2016), metaphorically captures some of that excitement. 


I follow it, the snail of thought
I leave the track, turn off this trail
I crouch in shadows, under ferns
I refuse to answer every bird
I see the liquid glister in its shell
I taste the wind
I smell the smoke of fire in the woods
I hear the crackle of a thousand thorns
I feel the temperature rising
I consider every option valid
I attend each phase
I crumble into wet, black ground
I lose my place in sand and gravel
I listen for the clash of weeds
I wonder where the snail will go today

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