Biography of Donald Revell
Born in the Bronx, Donald Revell received his PhD at SUNY Buffalo and is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, translations, and essays. His recent books include Drought-Adapted Vine (2015), Tantivy (2012), and the prose work, Essay: A Critical Memoir (2015). Steeped in the work of Henry David Thoreau and William Carlos Williams, Revell’s poetry is “seriously Christian but not doctrinaire, mystical without setting intellect aside, angry over political matters without ever growing stale or shrill, and more often joyful than any other living poet of his powers,” observes critic Stephen Burt, noting that in A Thief of Strings (2007) Revell “may have constructed the only language of ecstasy that makes sense for our secular, self-doubting age.”
Since his first collection, From Abandoned Cities (1983), a National Poetry Series winner, Revell’s poetry has moved toward a yearning for transparency and innocence. Although Revell was originally a formalist poet, his more recent work tends to be in free verse and aims, in his words, “to make something out of words through which meaning can pass without impediment and without significant loss of energy.” As he teaches his students, “Craft is nothing. Sincerity is everything.”
His awards include two Pushcart Prizes, two Shestack Prizes, the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, two PEN Center USA Awards in poetry, and fellowships from the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
After editing the Denver Quarterly from 1988 to 1994, Revell joined the Colorado Review as poetry editor in 1995. He has taught at the Universities of Tennessee, Denver, Missouri, Iowa, Alabama, Utah, and Nevada-Las Vegas.
Revell lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife, poet Claudia Keelan.
Donald Revell Poems
I am looking at a smallpox vaccination scar In a war movie on the arm Of a young actor. He has just swum
Virgil Watched Them
Virgil watched them Crossing the river away from him The fathers without their children Only a little while
The unsigned architecture of loneliness is becoming taller, finding a way farther above the horizontal flowering of the Cold War, the peonies
An Instrument Also
The climate thinks with its knees. When the wound opens, music suspires. Opening a gate, I gain the color below the roof tiles and the tree limbs.
Homage to John Frederick Peto
1 Fitfully in pictures disappearing now, They are not toys but, rather, tiny horses In the parade of youth: polish, spit, and display
The Glens of Cithaeron
Till the gold fields of stiff wheat Cry "We are ripe, reap us!" —Ted Hughes I begin to think Actaeon never changed.
Elegy a Little
Linoleum and half a dozen eggs In 1960 Many towered Ilium A brand name and a shopping list too
Death calls my dog by the wrong name. A little man when I was small, Death grew Beside me, always taller, but always Confused as I have almost never been.
In three directions are two storms. I instruct the edges of my hands to become
When the world was loveliness I was A composer, Borodin, my left eye Level with the floor beside toy men. Wild work and havoc they made,
"Birds small enough..."
Birds small enough to nest in our young cypress Are physicians to us They burst from the tree exactly Where the mind ends and the eye sees
It is the right time for hallucinations. Drowning in a sty, the sailor feels the ocean's buoyancy.
Who will you point to? In the needle's eye, or selling what you won at the strait gate, who will know how to kiss you and just when
Warm Days in January
It has never been so easy to cry openly or to acknowledge children. Never before could I walk directly to the center of an island city feeling the automatism of millions
Who will you point to? In the needle's eye,
or selling what you won at the strait gate,
who will know how to kiss you and just when
to pull the hair at your neck and say your name?
No single victim will ever be the last.
Not, at least, until one victim purifies
the whole issue of suffering
by crying out that his pain means nothing
because it comes from nowhere and goes nowhere.