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Diane Raptosh

Diane Raptosh was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and raised in Idaho. She received a BA from the College of Idaho in 1983 and an MFA from the University of Michigan in 1986.

Raptosh is the author of five poetry collections: Human Directional (Etruscan Press, 2016); American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press, 2013), which was nominated for the 2013 National Book Award; Parents from a Different Alphabet (Guernica Editions, 2008); Labor Songs (Guernica Editions, 1999); and Just West of Now (Guernica Editions, 1992).

The poet Kerri Webster writes of American Amnesiac, which chronicles the journey of a man who has lost his memory: “Against the background of our cultural forgetting, the shortcomings of America’s working memory, Diane Raptosh introduces us to this soul who might be any of us as he pieces together a world and a self from bewilderment.”

In 2013, Raptosh was selected as Boise’s inaugural poet laureate, and she went on to receive Idaho’s highest literary position, writer in residence, that same year. She currently holds the Eyck-Berringer Endowed Chair in English at The College of Idaho, where she also directs the criminal justice and prison studies program. She lives in Boise, Idaho.


Human Directional (Etruscan Press, 2016)
American Amnesiac (Etruscan Press, 2013)
Parents from a Different Alphabet (Guernica Editions, 2008)
Labor Songs (Guernica Editions, 1999)
Just West of Now (Guernica Editions, 1992)

By This Poet


American Zebra: Praise Song for the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

I like how, when I look out
onto this desert Idaho plain,
I can pretty much graze my palm
on the Pliocene—
and doing so, greet the great wide savannahs of Africa—
mossy and tree lined,
laced in saber-toothed cats,
hyena-like dogs and a half caravan
of even-toed camels.

I like how, when I look upon these bluffs,
I have to leave off acuity—
level all spectacle,
un-specimen Earth.
Even so, here blows
another tumbleweed. Be careful
with that match! 
Hear it now,
skeletal frolic of O’s.

I love how this lookout
offers no viewfinder.
So I must mesh with the idea
of what might have been
the lontra weiri,
Hagerman’s mystery otter,
nearly four million years ago.
Should I not add this riverine creature
was named for singer Bob Weir?

Dare I admit I am way, way thankful
he fathered the Grateful Dead,
which helped bring us hippies,
sideburns shaped into states of Idaho?
These, plus those love-ins
we never quite had down in Nampa,
where I grew up, 117 miles from here.
It all instilled what I will call gratitude’s latitude
bones of articulate hope.

I like how standing still in this place
serves to remind
that every epochal zone
clearly inheres in us. Notice.
Most people only look
for what they can see. Oh, Great Dane-ish
Hagerman Horse. Maybe you’re Africa’s own
Grévy's zebra. Should I not grab you here
in this wayfaring now—and stiffly by the mane—

to say yes, of course, I am indebted?
I’m here at this look-out—
the long meanwhile, whole Snake River histories
molted and soaked in
then found their shot to break free
to the bone layer
under that soil-load
dubbed by the digging biz

Listen here, visitor.
Lay your millstone down, 
once and for everyone.
And say
can you see—hey,
here’s some binoculars : What kind
of place will we be
when I cross over
into you and you cross over into me?


World Upside Down

Despite the fact I can’t lay flat
            two fingers,

on my way home from work
            I walked on my hands

from my corner—
            over grass and elm shadow and across

the sidewalk’s light
            upheavals, half the way

to Sunbeam Grocery—fresh blood-chutes
            to the brain with each
stride of the palm,
            pair of inner blue pumps
pretty much off duty;
            spine, lats, and thyroid cartilage elongated fully.

This I do with the soles of my hands:
            cop a feel of the globe

in mega-dimension, how dogs sniff voles
            through fronds of wild rye.

With how much grandeur dandelions keep their minds afloat!
            Noble, with clover laced in

industrial bug juice, my dog Toby a swatch
            of roving cumulus. The whole schmeer,

by which I must now mean the full-on world,
            seems half again as much a meanness derby

as anything else. Therefore, let me lay
            these words in the church of your mouth.


She didn’t have one, and never had, if have was the right verb for knowing someone in this way and referring to someone with this word. She had had children. Two of them. She had had friends. She had had, or, as she had heard it said, had taken lovers. Still, through all these years she had felt more or less tended to, almost thoroughly husbanded, though by what or whom exactly it was hard to say—certainly by some of the men she had been with, and some of the women, sometimes by her own mother even, but equally often by a single idea, such as Schoenberg’s, who believed all progress in social thinking and feeling had come about through force of longing. With equal frequency, though with less predictability, she had felt cared for by certain objects: a spotted yellow pear, the dark fetal curl of the dog’s tail, that ancient hay derrick, tall and rangy, pointing out the far end of the world. Sometimes when she went to a movie by herself—something she often did—she’d tell the ticket-taker that her husband would arrive at any minute. She simply liked the sound of the word, and she took it entirely, and many times a day, as hers.