poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

On Nivember 21, 1949, Liam Rector was born in Washington, D.C. He received an MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

His books of poems include The Executive Director of the Fallen World (University of Chicago Press, 2006), American Prodigal (1994) and The Sorrow of Architecture (1984).

His reviews and essays appeared in magazines and books that include American Poetry Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Boston Globe, Hudson Review, Bostonia, The Oxford Companion to Literature, and Contemporary Poets.

"Liam Rector is one of the most linguistically liquid and gifted poets of his generation," said poet Lucie Brock-Broido. "His is the oddest and most hallucinatory romance with Romance in American letters."

Rector's honors include fellowships in poetry from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and he received the Friend to Writers Award from PEN New England. He served as poetry editor of Harvard Magazine and as associate editor of Harvard Review and Agni.

Rector edited The Day I Was Older: On the Poetry of Donald Hall (1989), and co-edited with Tree Swenson On the Poetry of Frank Bidart: Fastening the Voice to the Page (University of Michigan Press, 2007).

Rector taught at Columbia University, The New School, Emerson College, George Mason University, and elsewhere. He founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College, and administered literary programs at the Association of Writers and Writing Programs, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets.

Liam Rector died on August 15, 2007.

The Remarkable Objectivity of Your Old Friends

Liam Rector, 1949 - 2007

We did right by your death and went out,
Right away, to a public place to drink,
To be with each other, to face it.

We called other friends—the ones
Your mother hadn't called—and told them
What you had decided, and some said

What you did was right; it was the thing
You wanted and we'd just have to live
With that, that your life had been one

Long misery and they could see why you
Had chosen that, no matter what any of us
Thought about it, and anyway, one said,

Most of us abandoned each other a long
Time ago and we'd have to face that
If we had any hope of getting it right.

From American Prodigal by Liam Rector, published by Story Line Press. Copyright © 1994 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the author and Story Line Press.

From American Prodigal by Liam Rector, published by Story Line Press. Copyright © 1994 by Liam Rector. Reprinted by permission of the author and Story Line Press.

Liam Rector

The author of three books of poetry, Liam Rector founded and directed the graduate Writing Seminars at Bennington College

by this poet

poem
I was well towards the end
Of middle-age before I
Realized I loved saying

Disgusting things but didn't
Really myself much enjoy hearing
Them. They

Go to the heart of life,
I realize (I think
Everyone recognizes this),

Since almost everyone
Can agree: Life, so
Generally disgusting.

But no one really
Wants to
poem
Fat Southern men in their summer suits,
Usually with suspenders, love to sweat
Into and even through their coats,

Taking it as a matter of honor to do so,
Especially when the humidity gets as close
As it does each Southern summer.

Some think men could do better
By just going ahead
poem
Now
Now I see it: a few years
To play around while being
Bossed around

By the taller ones, the ones
With the money
And more muscle, however

Tender or indifferent
They might be at being
Parents; then off to school

And the years of struggle
With authority while learning
Violent gobs of things one didn't

Want to