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About this poet

On April 10, 1945, Norman Dubie was born in Barre, Vermont. He began writing poetry at eleven, and was influenced by John Keats and D. H. Lawrence. During Dubie's childhood, his father had a religious conversion, began studying theology, and moved the family to New Hampshire. The young Dubie watched his father become politically active in his parish and encourage support of the civil rights movement.

After finishing high school, Dubie had hoped to play football for West Point, but instead followed his father's wishes and enrolled at the University of New Hampshire at Durham, where he failed every subject except English and Geology. Dubie took nine months off from his studies and was later rejected by the draft due to high blood pressure. He enrolled at Goddard College in Vermont and received his BA in 1965. He then received a fellowship from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where he earned his MFA in 1968, as well as an invitation to stay on as a member of the program's regular faculty.

Dubie's first book, Alehouse Sonnets, was written during a blizzard while he was still a graduate student. The manuscript of poems was chosen as a runner-up for the International Poetry Forum Prize and was later published by the University of Pittsburg Press in 1971. Richard Howard, one of the poets on the jury, urged Dubie to establish an MFA program at Arizona State University in Tempe, and in 1975 Dubie accepted a position there as consultant in the arts and launched their creative writing program, though he did not accept the title of director.

During 1975, Dubie published four books of poetry, and a year later received a Guggenheim Fellowship. Since then, he has published numerous collections of poetry, including The Volcano (Copper Canyon Press, 2010); The Insomniac Liar of Topo (2007); Ordinary Mornings of a Coliseum (2004); The Mercy Seat: Collected & New Poems 1967-2001 (2001), Selected and New Poems (1986), and The Clouds of Magellan (1992). His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.

In an interview published in American Poetry Review, Dubie said that he aims to "challenge whatever the assumed limits of the lyric are." He is well known for poems that invoke the characters and voices of other writers and artists such as Chekhov, Proust, Ingmar Bergman, Rodin, and many others.

Dubie has received the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He currently lives and teaches in Tempe, Arizona.

February: The Boy Breughel

Norman Dubie, 1945
The birches stand in their beggar's row:
Each poor tree
Has had its wrists nearly
Torn from the clear sleeves of bone,
These icy trees
Are hanging by their thumbs
Under a sun
That will begin to heal them soon,
Each will climb out
Of its own blue, oval mouth;
The river groans,
Two birds call out from the woods

And a fox crosses through snow
Down a hill; then, he runs, 
He has overcome something white
Beside a white bush, he shakes
It twice, and as he turns
For the woods, the blood in the snow

Looks like the red fox,
At a distance, running down the hill:
A white rabbit in his mouth killed
By the fox in snow
Is killed over and over as just
Two colors, now, on a winter hill:

Two colors! Red and white. A barber's bowl!
Two colors like the peppers
In the windows
Of the town below the hill. Smoke comes
From the chimneys. Everything is still.

Ice in the river begins to move,
And a boy in a red shirt who woke
A moment ago
Watches from his window
The street where an ox
Who's broken out of his hut
Stands in the fresh snow
Staring cross-eyed at the boy
Who smiles and looks out
Across the roof to the hill;
And the sun is reaching down
Into the woods

Where the smoky red fox still
Eats his kill. Two colors.
Just two colors!
A sunrise. The snow.

From Selected and New Poems, published by W.W. Norton & Co., 1983. Copyright © 1983 by Norman Dubie. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

From Selected and New Poems, published by W.W. Norton & Co., 1983. Copyright © 1983 by Norman Dubie. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Norman Dubie

Norman Dubie

The author of numerous collections of poetry, Norman Dubie is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Bess Hokin Award from the Modern Poetry Association.

by this poet

poem
                     —an ars poetica


I remember the death, in Russia,
of postage stamps 
like immense museum masterpieces
patchwork
wrapped in linen, tea stained,
with hemp for strapping...

these colored stamps designed for foreign places
were even printed during famine—
so when they vanished, so did
poem

In the cold heavy rain, through
its poor lens, 
a woman
who might be a man
writes with a can of blue paint
large numbers
on the sides of beached whales—

even on the small one who is still
living, heaving 
there next to its darkening mother
where the
poem
You were never told, Mother, how old Illya  was drunk
That last holiday, for five days and nights

He stumbled through Petersburg forming
A choir of mutes, he dressed them in pink ascension gowns

And, then, sold Father's Tirietz stallion so to rent
A hall for his Christmas recital: the audience

Was rowdy but