Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine Poems

So what use was poetry
to a white empty house?

We met for supper in your flat-bottomed boat.
I got there first: in a white dress: I remember
Wondering if you'd come. Then you shot over the bank,
A Virgilian Nigger Jim, and poled us off

Jane is big
with death, Don
sad and kind - Jane
though she's dying


I have decorated this banner to honor my brother.
Our parents did not want his name used publicly
-- from an unnamed child's banner in the AIDS Memorial Quilt.


Late have I called &
late my
was blessing me

You came in a dream, yesterday —
The first day we met you showed me

In the elephant field tall green ghost elephants
with your cargo of summer leaves

Friend I need your hand every morning
but anger and beauty and hope

one arm still a swan's wing
The worst had happened before:

There's one day a year
they can return, if they want.

You who I don't know I don't know how to talk to you

—What is it like for you there?

She saying, You don't have to do anything
you don't even have to be, you Only who are,
you nobody from nowhere,
without one sin or one good quality,

The branches looked first like tepees,
but there was no emptiness.

He was shoveling sand
at the edge of the water, his heavy black glasses
glittered with rain:

I have lived in your face.
Have I been you?

Friend or no friend,
darkness or light,

Red cloth I lie on the ground
otherwise nothing could hold

I am twenty,
drifting in la chalupa,

I needed a friend but
I was in the other room —

In a circle of 12 winter trees
I'm hunched
Remembering being fled from

Jean Valentine Biography

Jean Valentine is an American poet, and currently the New York State Poet (2008–2010). Her poetry collection, Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003, was awarded the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry. Her most recent book Break the Glass (Copper Canyon Press, 2010) was a finalist for the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Her first book, Dream Barker, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 1965. She has published poems widely in literary journals and magazines, including The New Yorker, and Harper's Magazine, and The American Poetry Review. Valentine was one of five poets including Charles Wright, Russell Edson, James Tate and Louise Gluck, whose work Lee Upton considered critically in The Muse of Abandonment: Origin, Identity, Mastery in Five American Poets (Bucknell University Press, 1998). She has held residencies from Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, Ucross, and the Lannan foundation, among others. She was born in Chicago, USA, received bachelor of arts and a master of arts degrees at Radcliffe College, and has lived most of her life in New York City. She has taught with the Graduate Writing Program at New York University, at Columbia University, at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, and at Sarah Lawrence College. She is a faculty member at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She was married to the late American historian James Chace from 1957–1968, and they have two daughters, Sarah and Rebecca. Awards 2004 National Book Award for Poetry (for Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003) 1999 Shelley Memorial Award 1991 Maurice English Poetry Award 1988 Beatrice Hawley Award (for Home Deep Blue: New and Selected Poems) 1976 Guggenheim Fellowship 1972 National Endowment for the Arts - Literature Fellowship in Poetry 1965 Yale Series of Younger Poets)

The Best Poem Of Jean Valentine

To Plath, To Sexton

So what use was poetry
to a white empty house?
Wolf, swan, hare,
in by the fire.
And when your tree
crashed through your house,
what use then
was all your power?
It was the use of you.
It was the flower.

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