poem index

February 1, 2008AWP Conference, Hilton Hotel, New York City From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Mark Jarman was born in Mount Sterling, Kentucky, on June 5, 1952. He earned a BA from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1974 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1976. He has published numerous collections of poetry, including Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011); Epistles (Sarabande Books, 2007); To the Green Man (Sarabande Books, 2004); Unholy Sonnets (Story Line Press, 2000); Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line Press, 1997), which won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Iris (Story Line Press, 1992); The Black Riviera (Wesleyan University Press, 1990), which won the 1991 Poets' Prize; Far and Away (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1985); The Rote Walker (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1981); and North Sea (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 1978).

Jarman served as Elector for the American Poets’ Corner at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine form 2009-2012. During the 1980s, he and Robert McDowell founded, edited, and published the Reaper, a magazine that helped established the movements of New Narrative and New Formalism. Selections from the magazine were published in book form as the Reaper Essays (Story Line Press, 1996). Jarman has published two collections of essays: Body and Soul (University of Michigan Press, 2002) and the Secret of Poetry (Story Line Press, 2001). He is also coeditor with David Mason of Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (Story Line Press, 1996).

The poet Edward Hirsch described Jarman's poetry as "God-haunted. [Jarman] writes as an unorthodox but essentially Christian poet who embraces paradox and treats contradiction, to use Simone Weil's phrase, as a lever for transcendence."

Jarman's awards include a Joseph Henry Jackson Award and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2011, he received the Balcones Poetry Prize for Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems. He is Centennial Professor of English at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, where he lives with his wife, the soprano Amy Jarman.




Bibliography

Poetry

Bone Fires: New and Selected Poems (Sarabande Books, 2011)
Epistles (Sarabande Books, 2007)
To the Green Man (Sarabande Books, 2004)
Unholy Sonnets (Story Line Press, 2000)
Questions for Ecclesiastes (Story Line Press, 1997)
Iris (Story Line Press, 1992)
The Black Riviera (Story Line Press, 1990)
Far and Away (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1985)
The Rote Walker (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1981)
North Sea (Cleveland State University Press, 1978)

Prose

Body and Soul (University of Michigan Press, 2002)
The Secret of Poetry (Story Line Press, 2001)
Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism, coedited with David Mason (Story Line Press, 1996)
The Reaper Essays, coedited with Robert McDowell (Story Line Press, 1996)


Ground Swell

Mark Jarman, 1952
Is nothing real but when I was fifteen,
Going on sixteen, like a corny song?
I see myself so clearly then, and painfully--
Knees bleeding through my usher's uniform
Behind the candy counter in the theater
After a morning's surfing; paddling frantically
To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me,
Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor's
Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt.
Is that all I have to write about?
You write about the life that's vividest.
And if that is your own, that is your subject.
And if the years before and after sixteen
Are colorless as salt and taste like sand--
Return to those remembered chilly mornings,
The light spreading like a great skin on the water,
And the blue water scalloped with wind-ridges,
And--what was it exactly?--that slow waiting
When, to invigorate yourself, you peed
Inside your bathing suit and felt the warmth
Crawl all around your hips and thighs,
And the first set rolled in and the water level
Rose in expectancy, and the sun struck
The water surface like a brassy palm,
Flat and gonglike, and the wave face formed.
Yes. But that was a summer so removed
In time, so specially peculiar to my life,
Why would I want to write about it again?
There was a day or two when, paddling out,
An older boy who had just graduated
And grown a great blonde moustache, like a walrus,
Skimmed past me like a smooth machine on the water,
And said my name. I was so much younger,
To be identified by one like him--
The easy deference of a kind of god
Who also went to church where I did--made me
Reconsider my worth. I had been noticed.
He soon was a small figure crossing waves,
The shawling crest surrounding him with spray,
Whiter than gull feathers. He had said my name
Without scorn, just with a bit of surprise
To notice me among those trying the big waves
Of the morning break. His name is carved now
On the black wall in Washington, the frozen wave
That grievers cross to find a name or names.
I knew him as I say I knew him, then,
Which wasn't very well. My father preached
His funeral. He came home in a bag
That may have mixed in pieces of his squad.
Yes, I can write about a lot of things
Besides the summer that I turned sixteen.
But that's my ground swell. I must start
Where things began to happen and I knew it.

From Questions for Ecclesiastes published by Story Line Press, 1997. Copyright © 1997 by Mark Jarman. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Mark Jarman

Mark Jarman

Poet Mark Jarman won the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and has authored many collections of poetry

by this poet

poem
How do you turn into a flower of the field,
the lily clothed to make Solomon rue his glory?

What leap takes off from here towards evolution,
pointing the way to the pearly everlasting?

Eons made the flower and flowers have their agendas,
whatever the population of the field—

more than a lifetime to construct
poem
In Ball's Market after surfing till noon,
We stand in wet trunks, shivering,
As icing dissolves off our sweet rolls
Inside the heat-blued counter oven,
When they appear on his portable TV,
Riding a float of chiffon as frothy
As the peeling curl of a wave.
The parade m. c. talks up their hits
And their new houses
poem
To raise a stump of rock into a tower, rolling a stone 
     in place as the years pass.
Strangers who only know your silhouette bid it farewell and
     travel to Japan,
Cross China, venture into India, to Europe, and, changed 
     by time and space,
Sail home over the bulging eye of ocean only to see, when