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About this poet

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 16, 1959, Robert Fitterman spent his childhood in Creve Coeur, Missouri. He received his BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and his MA from Temple University.

He is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Now we are friends (Truck Books, 2011); Rob the Plagiarist, (Roof Books, 2009); Sprawl: Metropolis 30A (Make Now Press, 2009); The Sun Also Also Rises: A Hemingway Reader (No Press, 2008); war, the musical (Subpress, 2006), Metropolis 30: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Edge Books, 2004), Metropolis 16-29 (Coach House, 2002), Metropolis 1-15 (Sun & Moon Press, 2000), and many more.

With the poet Vanessa Place, he co-authored Notes On Conceptualisms (Ugly Duckling, 2009), a prose exploration of conceptual writing. He also edited the anthology Collective Task (Patrick Lovelace Editions, 2009), featuring a large-scale collaboration between poets Mónica de la Torre, Stacy Doris, and Juliana Spahr, among others.

About his writing practice, Fitterman says, "Experimental poetry has a long shelf life. Even if the community is small, the conversation could be vital to the future of the art...Beyond the numbers, what's crucial is to articulate, foster, and engage in a conversation that speaks to the dialogues of the day (and there may be many)."

About Fitterman's poems, Bruce Andrews wrote: "They valorize themselves not so much by vernacular sampling (which is nothing new, even if it still scandalizes the clerisy) as by the rich and risky attentiveness of their prosodic choices. Relation is it."

Currently, he teaches writing and poetry at New York University and at the Bard College, Milton Avery School of Graduate Studies, and lives in New York City.

National Laureate

Robert Fitterman, 1959
Alabama

Eagle and egret, woodcock and teal, all birds
gathering to affirm the last gasp of sunset.

Alaska

Maybe I should stay in bed
all day long and read a book
or listen to the news on the radio
but truthfully, I am not meant for that.

Arkansas

Then, as we talked, my personage subdued,
And I became, as Petit jean, a ghost,

California

I can stand here all day and tell you how much
I honor, admire, how brave you are.

Connecticut

Dark grays and fainter
Grays of near fields and far hills
Motionless, his mind

Playing silently
Over and over with his
Worry beads of words.

Delaware

On her dresser is one of those old glass bottles
of Jergen's Lotion with the black label, a little round
bottle of Mum deodorant, a white plastic tray
with Avon necklaces and earrings, pennies, paper clips,
and a large black coat button. I appear to be very
interested in these objects.

Florida

We learn from our animals, if we're smart.
They know how to wait. They know how to run
To catch up. Much of their life is spent at windows.

Georgia

Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride
to the dump in carloads
to turn our headlights across the wasted field,

Idaho

I imagined him wading the shallows of a mountain stream—
the breeze still cold off the higher snow fields,
the fish smell of fresh water, the pitched hum of insects
waking to the sun.

Illinois

Fact is, each breath becomes bone
becomes dust

Indiana

Hill Thoughts,
Midnight Flight

Iowa

The afternoons go by, one by one.
My old friend, who shone like a tropic sun
Amid the poets of our day, too soon
Grown wan and thin as the late May moon,

Kansas

In river country flint nodules rest
among limestone sea bottoms, unexplained,
glassy among the porous tangles of shells

Kentucky

I see her in a photograph I found,
unsmiling in a drop-waist dress. No telling
how the roaring twenties roared through here.

Louisiana

i search but i can not find out
the streets of my ancestors

nor any relative to receive me

Maine

When I was a child and angels argued slamming doors,
I lolled, feet up the couch, head on the floor

Maryland

Before I leave, almost without noticing,
before I cross the road and head toward
what I have intentionally postponed—

Mississippi

Behind the Ridge
The Seeking Spirit
Cry Life

Montana

Gray cloud like a sweater pulled over the heart of the moon.

Nebraska

Windmill. Stretch even the
Fingertips against sand-coated hills.
You can get there from here,
Sir.

Nevada

Treat your Mommy nice
and take her to Las Vegas—
she'll think you're swell.

New Hampshire

The city was brick and stone in the time
before glass and steel. In those days
the city was streets of women.

New York

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye.

North Carolina

The only clouds
forming are crow clouds,

the only shade, oaks
bound together in a tangle of oak

North Dakota

Most poets are rooted in the natural world,
spokespersons for the inarticulate in nature.

Oklahoma

under her cool skin
the feet dipped in formaldehyde
to prevent sweating
a river runs.

Oregon

And you pretty much gotta trust Her,
even if that means twiddling your thumbs
while she makes Her way through Her medley—

Rhode Island

The dark barge works the length of braziers
humped like monks awaiting sacrifice;

South Carolina

Seeds of hope are waiting
in the sacred soil beneath our feet
and in the light and in the shadows,
spinning below the hemlocks.

Tennessee

for eighty some odd years
He rose with the rising sun
And many mornings got up at dark
For so much work was to be done.

Texas

Her skirt clings to her the way fog clings to a flower.
Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint.
Driving for hours a man thinks about how things are measured,
about how coffee always tastes better in small towns.

Utah

Neither of us can guess if they'll hurry
dusk along, those clouds that have loitered
all afternoon over the rooftops. From our window...

Vermont

When you come back to me
it will be crow time
and flycatcher time,
with rising spirals of gnats
between the apple trees.

Virginia

When the last cloud leaves
nothing behind—no
history, no trace of error, no
basilica to shelter a man—

Washington

oblivious to the fact
that anyone might be watching,
that he might be teaching us all
how to live

West Virginia

Then, that recognition would
reward me for all I'd undergone,
my bravery of thought, my refusal
of dishonest love, and my goodwill

Wisconsin

Although distance does not
matter, it's a long way
into the flat pine forest

Wyoming

the work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair


Note: Not every U.S. state has a designated poet laureate

Copyright © 2009 by Robert Fitterman. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2009 by Robert Fitterman. Used with permission of the author.

Robert Fitterman

Robert Fitterman

About his writing practice, Fitterman says, "Experimental poetry has a long shelf life. Even if the community is small, the conversation could be vital to the future of the art."

by this poet

poem
To look and to listen requires the work of attention, selection, reappropriation, a way of making one's own film, one’s own text, one's own installation out of what the artist has presented.
                                                           —Jacques Rancière

Book I

poem

This window makes me feel like I'm protected. This window makes me feel like people don't know much about recent history, at