A second ago my heart thump went and I thought, "This would be a bad time to have a heart attack and die, in the middle of a poem," then took comfort in the idea that no one I have ever heard of has ever died in the middle of writing a poem, just as birds never die in mid-flight. I think.
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.
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)
Blaise Cendrars, Complete Poems (University of California Press, 1992)
Pierre Cabanne, Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp (1971)
Guillaume Apollinaire, The Poet Assassinated (HarperCollins, 1968)
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