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Baron Wormser

1948–

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, on February 4, 1948, Baron Wormser grew up in Baltimore, where he attended high school at Baltimore City College. He studied English at Johns Hopkins University and received his MA in English from the University of California, Irvine, in 1970. That same year he moved to Maine, where he worked as a librarian for twenty-five years and taught poetry writing at the University of Maine at Farmington. From 1975 to 1998 Wormser lived with his family in an off-the-grid house on forty-eight acres of land in Mercer.

Wormser, who has been described as “a beautiful writer of the meditative-narrative poem in the compassionate and lucid style of Frost, Hayden Carruth, and Donald Hall” by Tony Hoagland, is the author of nine books of poetry, including Impenitent Notes (CavanKerry Press, 2011), Scattered Chapters (Sarabande Books, 2008), and Carthage (Illuminated Sea Press, 2005); and five books of prose, including the novel Teach Us That Peace (Piscataqua Press, 2013), the short story collection The Poetry Life (CavanKerry Press, 2008), and a memoir, The Road Washes Out in Spring (University Press of New England, 2006).

In his poems, Wormser uses plain, unpretentious speech, and his verse reflects his love of and familiarity with rural New England. “Baron Wormser’s incandescent, exacting, generous intelligence never allows him the luxury of detachment. Like all real subversion, his poetry hinges on responsibility. If there’s irony, it’s the irony of reality, of tragedy: the only animal that claims to know itself cannot save itself. Wormser can show you what’s inside those emotions—hope, desire—whose outsides have names,” writes D. Nurkse.

Wormser’s honors include the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry and the Kathryn A. Morton Prize, as well as fellowships from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2000, Maine Governor Angus King appointed Wormser state poet laureate, a position he held for six years.

He is the director of educational outreach at The Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, and teaches in the low-residency MFA creative writing program at Fairfield University at Enders Island, Connecticut. He lives in Cabot, Vermont.


Bibliography

Poetry
Impenitent Notes (CavanKerry Press, 2011)
Scattered Chapters (Sarabande Books, 2008)
Carthage (Illuminated Sea Press, 2005)
Subject Matter (Sarabande Books, 2003)
Mulroney and Others (Sarabande Books, 2000)
When (Sarabande Books, 1997)
Atoms, Soul Music and Other Poems (Paris Review Press, 1989)
Good Trembling (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1985)
The White Words (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983)

Fiction
Teach Us That Peace (Piscataqua Press, 2013)
The Poetry Life (CavanKerry Press, 2008)

Nonfiction
The Road Washes Out in Spring (University Press of New England, 2006)
The Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day by Day (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000)
Teaching the Art of Poetry: The Moves (Routledge, 2000)

Baron Wormser
Photo credit: Janet Wormser

By This Poet

2

Anecdotes

A moment from a life--a husband holding up
A tee-shirt for cursory inspection;
A child trudging home from a dull school day;
A tree in heavy wind--when placed within

The careful rails of verse acquires the dear,
Facile pout of meaning. It's a feeling
Rather than a faith since faith knows
Its way beforehand, while this telling us

A seeking. We read under the beneficence
Of a minor spell. Even the pain comforts:
Any life does; any avenue counts.
The man recalls a Sunday softball game;
The child stops at a puddle and peers into
Gorgeous nothingness; the tree falls or doesn't.

The Poetry Life: Ten Stories [I rise before the sun does]

I rise before the sun does. Each morning I sit on the edge of the bed with my feet planted on the unlovely linoleum floor and I say slowly but quite distinctly to the darkness, "Sweet joy befall thee." I feel like an actor speaking the first words of a play except my life is no play nor does my soul need an audience. What I do need is confidence. I've built my life up from very shaky ground and William Blake, the man who wrote that line, has been a godsend to me. The human voice that speaks a poem rises from a powerful well; we take it for granted but a voice is an advent of spirit. I know from attending numerous churches during my haphazard childhood that the joy that preachers trumpet comes in a box with grievous dimensions. Their salvation is a machine of wrath; they break your back on hell so you can get to heaven. The joy I invoke can go where it chooses because it resides in our being alive. The joy I invoke is Blake's Jerusalem, the city we can build each day through kindness: "The most sublime act is to set another before you." No one has ever called the place where I work "sublime," so I need that word, too.

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