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About this poet

In 1951, James Galvin was born in Chicago and was raised in northern Colorado. He earned a BA from Antioch College in 1974 and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1977.

He has published several collections of poetry, including As Is (Copper Canyon, 2009); X: Poems (2003); Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997 (1997), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Lethal Frequencies (1995); Elements (1988); God's Mistress (1984), which was selected for the National Poetry Series by Marvin Bell; and Imaginary Timber (1980).

Galvin is also the author of the critically acclaimed prose book, The Meadow (1992) and a novel, Fencing the Sky (Henry Holt, 1999).

His honors include a "Discovery"/The Nation award, a Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Foundation award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Galvin lives in Laramie, Wyoming, where he has worked as a rancher part of each year all his life, and in Iowa City, where he is a member of the permanent faculty of the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop.

Two Horses and a Dog

James Galvin, 1951
Without external reference,
The world presents itself
In perfect clarity.

Wherewithal, arrested moments,
The throes of demystification,
Morality as nothing more
Than humility and honesty, a salty measure.

Then it was a cold snap,
Weather turned lethal so it was easier
To feel affinity
With lodgepole stands, rifted aspens,
And grim, tenacious sage.

History accelerates till it misses the turns.
Wars are shorter now
Just to fit into it.

One day you know you are no longer young
Because you've stopped loving your own desperation.
You change life to loneliness in your mind
And, you know, you need to change it back.

Statistics show that
One in every five
Women
Is essential to my survival.
My daughter asks how wide is lightning.
That depends, but I don't know on what.
Probably the dimension of inner hugeness,
As in a speck of dirt.

It was an honor to suffer humiliation and refusal.
Shame was an honor.
It was an honor to freeze your ass horseback
In the year's first blizzard,
Looking for strays that never materialized.

It was an honor to break apart against this,
An honor to fail at well-being
As the high peaks accepted the first snow -
A sigh of relief.
Time stands still
And we things go whizzing past it,
Queasy and lonely,
Wearing dogtags with scripture on them.

From Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1997. (Originally published in Lethal Frequencies, 1995.) Copyright © 1997 by James Galvin. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

James Galvin

James Galvin

The author of several collections of poetry, James Galvin's book Resurrection Update: Collected Poems 1975-1997 was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize

by this poet

poem
A pinup of Rita Hayworth was taped
To the bomb that fell on Hiroshima.
The Avant-garde makes me weep with boredom.
Horses are wishes, especially dark ones.

That's why twitches and fences.
That's why switches and spurs.
That's why the idiom of betrayal.
They forgive us.

Their windswayed manes and tails,
poem
We don't belong to each other.
		          We belong together.
	                                                                  Some poems 
belong together to prove the intentionality of subatomic particles.
                                     
Some poems eat with scissors
poem
                                                       Past
fences the first sheepmen cast across the land, processions
of cringing pitch or cedar posts pulling into the vanishing
point like fretboards carrying barbed melodies, windharp
narratives, songs of place, I'm thinking of the long cowboy
ballads