December 09, 1982Pierpont Morgan LibraryFrom the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

On August 12, 1925, Donald Justice was born in Miami, Florida.

A graduate of the University of Miami, he attended the universities of North Carolina, Stanford, and Iowa. His books include New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995); A Donald Justice Reader (1991); The Sunset Maker (1987), a collection of poems, stories and a memoir; Selected Poems (1979), for which he won the Pulitzer Prize; Departures (1973); Night Light (1967); and The Summer Anniversaries (1959), which received the Academy's Lamont Poetry Selection.

Justice won the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991, and received grants in poetry from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. From 1997 to 2003, he served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. During his life, he held teaching positions at Syracuse University, the University of California at Irvine, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Iowa. From 1982 until his retirement in 1992, he taught at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

After retiring, he lived in Iowa City with his wife, Jean Ross, until his death on August 6, 2004.

Ode to a Dressmaker's Dummy

Donald Justice, 1925 - 2004
Papier-mache body; blue-and-black cotton jersey cover.
Metal stand. Instructions included.
   --Sears, Roebuck Catalogue
              O my coy darling, still
              You wear for me the scent
         Of those long afternoons we spent,
               The two of us together,
    Safe in the attic from the jealous eyes
                 Of household spies
    And the remote buffooneries of the weather;
                         So high,
    Our sole remaining neighbor was the sky,
              Which, often enough, at dusk,
    Leaning its cloudy shoulders on the sill,
Used to regard us with a bored and cynical eye.

              How like the terrified,
              Shy figure of a bride
         You stood there then, without your clothes,
                  Drawn up into
         So classic and so strict a pose
      Almost, it seemed, our little attic grew
Dark with the first charmed night of the honeymoon.
         Or was it only some obscure
      Shape of my mother's youth I saw in you,
There where the rude shadows of the afternoon
         Crept up your ankles and you stood
         Hiding your sex as best you could?--
         Prim ghost the evening light shone through.

From A Donald Justice Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose, by Donald Justice, published by Middlebury/The University of New England Press. Copyright © 1991 by Donald Justice. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

From A Donald Justice Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose, by Donald Justice, published by Middlebury/The University of New England Press. Copyright © 1991 by Donald Justice. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Donald Justice

Donald Justice

Born on August 12, 1925, Donald Justice authored many books of poetry and received the Lamont Poetry Selection and served as a chancellor for The Academy of American Poets