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Eleanor Wilner


Eleanor Wilner (née Rand) was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 29, 1937, and holds an interdepartmental PhD from Johns Hopkins University.

She has published several collections of poetry, including Tourist in Hell (University of Chicago Press, 2010); The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (Copper Canyon Press, 2004); Reversing the Spell: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1998); and Otherwise (University of Chicago, 1993).

Her other works include a verse translation of Euripides's Medea (Penn Greek Series, 1998); and a book on visionary imagination, Gathering the Winds (Johns Hopkins Press, 1975). Her work has appeared in over thirty anthologies, including Best American Poetry 1990 and The Norton Anthology of Poetry (Fourth Edition).

About Wilner's work, the poet Tony Hoagland has said, "[Wilner] has a deep and heroic belief in the transformative power of language and myth. She paddles her surfboard outside the reef where most poets stop; she rides the big waves."

Wilner has been the recipient of numerous awards, including fellowships from the MacArthur Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Juniper Prize, and two Pushcart Prizes.

Wilner, who was formerly the editor of The American Poetry Review, is currently an advisory editor of Calyx. She has taught, most recently, at the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Smith College. She is currently on the faculty of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and lives in Philadelphia.

Eleanor Wilner
Photo credit: Copper Canyon Press

By This Poet


Moon Gathering

And they will gather by the well,
its dark water a mirror to catch whatever
stars slide by in the slow precession of
the skies, the tilting dome of time, 
over all, a light mist like a scrim,
and here and there some clouds
that will open at the last and let
the moon shine through; it will be 
at the wheel's turning, when
three zeros stand like paw-prints
in the snow; it will be a crescent
moon, and it will shine up from
the dark water like a silver hook
without a fish--until, as we lean closer, 
swimming up from the well, something
dark but glowing, animate, like live coals--
it is our own eyes staring up at us,
as the moon sets its hook;
and they, whose dim shapes are no more
than what we will become, take up
their long-handled dippers
of brass, and one by one, they catch
the moon in the cup-shaped bowls,
and they raise its floating light
to their lips, and with it, they drink back
our eyes, burning with desire to see
into the gullet of night: each one
dips and drinks, and dips, and drinks, 
until there is only dark water,
until there is only the dark.

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