Biography of Ben Belitt
Ben Belitt (May 2, 1911 - August 17, 2003) was an American poet and translator. Besides writing poetry, he also translated several books of poetry by Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca from Spanish to English.
Belitt was born in New York City. He was educated at the University of Virginia, receiving a B.A. in 1932 and an M.A. in 1934, and he was a doctoral student at that university from 1934 to 1936. By the early 1940s he had taken up an appointment at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont, where he remained for the rest of his life. A bachelor, he became a good friend of the dancer (and fellow teacher at Bennington) Bill Bales, of his wife, the actress Jo Van Fleet, and of their son, Michael Bales, and regularly spent the important holidays of the year with this family at Bennington or in New York City.
Belitt was the author of eight books of poems; his complete poems, This Scribe, My Hand, was published in 1998 by Louisiana State University Press. He wrote two books of essays and over thirteen books of translations. He taught for many decades at Bennington College. After retiring from Bennington College, he continued to live in North Bennington and held the position of Professor Emeritus of Language and Literature at the college. He died in Bennington on August 17, 2003, at the age of 92 and was buried in Manchester, Vermont.
His papers are held by the University of Virginia.
Ben Belitt Poems
When last we came this pleasant way The hedgerows blossomed, high and hard, And blue with shade the violets lay In every cherry-lightened yard.
This Scribe, My Hand
When this warm scribe, my hand, is in the grave. —John Keats 1. You are here
They splay at a bend of the road, rifles slung, the shadows minimal, their hands tugging their slings by the upper swivel to ease the routine of the march.
Whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. —Genesis When the Deluge had passed, into my head, by twos, came the creeping things,
An Orange in Mérida
The orange-peelers of Mérida, in the wrought- iron midday, come with mechanical skewers and live oranges, to straddle the paths on caissons of bicycle wheels
On Quaking Bog
for Jean Brockway When the walkers-on-water went under, the bog-walkers came out of the barberry thickets, booted in gum to their hips,
Rise, cleanly trust, divided star, And spend that delicate fraud upon the night— A lover's instance moving mindful air To make its peace in dedicated light
...at the still point, there the dance is. —T. S. Eliot The errand into the maze, Emblem, the heel's blow upon space,
Bringing "only what is needed—essential toilet articles" in a paper bag, dressed as for dying, one sees the dying plainly.
Bringing "only what is needed—essential
toilet articles" in a paper bag,
dressed as for dying, one sees the dying plainly.
These are the homecomings of Agamemnon,
the odysseys to the underside of the web
that weaves and unweaves while the suitors gorge upon plenty
and the languishing sons at home unwish their warring
fathers with strong electric fingers.