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January 8, 2008 The Academy Offices From the Academy of American Poets

About this poet

Ron Padgett was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 17, 1942. He began writing at the age of thirteen and started a magazine in high school called The White Dove Review with friends Dick Gallup and Joe Brainard. In its five issues, the magazine published Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Robert Creeley, LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka), Ted Berrigan, and others.

In 1960, he moved to New York City, where he attended Columbia College and studied with Kenneth Koch and Lionel Trilling. Padgett later spent a year in Paris on a Fulbright fellowship where he studied French literature.

His first collection of poems, Bean Spasms (Kulcher Press), written with Ted Berrigan, was published in 1967. Since then he has published many books of poetry, including Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013), which received the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry; How Long (Coffee House Press, 2011); How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007); You Never Know (Coffee House Press, 2002); Poems I Guess I Wrote (CUZ Editions, 2001); New & Selected Poems (David R. Godine, 1995); The Big Something (The Figures, 1990); Triangles in the Afternoon (SUN, 1979); and Great Balls of Fire (Holt McDougal, 1969).

He has also published a volume of selected prose titled Blood Work (Bamberger Books, 1993), as well as translations of Blaise Cendrars' Complete Poems (University of California Press, 1992), Pierre Cabanne's Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (1971), and Guillaume Apollinaire's The Poet Assassinated (HarperCollins, 1968).

For his translations, Padgett has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Columbia University's Translation Center.

About Padgett's work, the poet James Tate wrote, "Ron Padgett's poems sing with absolutely true pitch. And they are human friendly. Their search for truths, both small and large, can be cause for laughter, or at least a thoughtful sigh."

Padgett was the editor-in-chief of World Poets, a three-volume reference book (Scribner, 2000). For twenty years Padgett was the publications director of Teachers & Writers Collaborative. He served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2013. He lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Collected Poems (Coffee House Press, 2013)
How Long (Coffee House Press, 2011)
How to Be Perfect (Coffee House Press, 2007)
You Never Know (Coffee House Press, 2002)
Poems I Guess I Wrote (CUZ Editions, 2001)
New & Selected Poems (David R. Godine, 1995)
The Big Something (The Figures, 1990)
Triangles in the Afternoon (SUN, 1979)
Great Balls of Fire (Holt McDougal, 1969)
Bean Spasms, with Ted Berrigan (Kulcher Press, 1967)

Translation

Blaise Cendrars, Complete Poems (University of California Press, 1992)
Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (1971)
Guillaume Apollinaire, The Poet Assassinated (HarperCollins, 1968)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Rialto

Ron Padgett, 1942
When my mother said Let’s go down to the Rialto
it never occurred to me that the name Rialto 

was odd or from anywhere else or meant anything
other than Rialto the theatre in my hometown 

like the Orpheum, whose name was only a phoneme
with no trace of the god of Poetry, though

later I would learn about him and about the bridge 
and realize that gods and bridges can fly invisibly 

across the ocean and change their shapes and land
in one’s hometown and go on living there

until it’s time to fly again and start all over 
as a perfectly clean phoneme in the heads
 
of the innocent and the open 
on their way to the Ritz.

From How to Be Perfect by Ron Padgett. Copyright © 2007 by Ron Padgett. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

From How to Be Perfect by Ron Padgett. Copyright © 2007 by Ron Padgett. Published by Coffee House Press. Used by permission of the publisher.

Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 17, 1942, Ron Padgett was elected as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2008

by this poet

poem

 

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poem
It's funny when the mind thinks about the psyche,
as if a grasshopper could ponder a helicopter.

It's a bad idea to fall asleep
while flying a helicopter:

when you wake up, the helicopter is gone
and you are too, left behind in a dream,

and there is no way to catch up,
for catching up doesn't figure

in the
poem
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.
Nothing in that drawer.