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Jane Mead


Jane Mead was born on August 13, 1958, in Baltimore, Maryland. She received a BA from Vassar College in 1982, an MA from Syracuse University in 1986, and an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1988.

She authored several poetry collections, including To the Wren, Collected & New Poems (Alice James Books, 2019); World of Made and Unmade (Alice James Books, 2016), which was a finalist for the Griffin Prize and the LA Times Book Award and longlisted for the National Book Award; Money Money Money | Water Water Water (Alice James Books, 2014); and The Lord and the General Din of the World (Sarabande Books, 1996).

Of her work, the poet Gerald Stern writes, “Jane Mead’s mission is to rescue—to search and rescue; and the mind, above all, does the work…. Her poems are a beautiful search for liberation and rebirth.”

Mead was the recipient of a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, a grant from the Lannan Foundation, and a Whiting Writers Award. She taught at Colby College, Southwest Texas State University, the University of Iowa, and Wake Forest University, among others. She managed her family’s ranch in northern California and co-owned Prairie Lights in Iowa City, Iowa. She died on September 8, 2019.


To the Wren, Collected & New Poems (Alice James Books, 2019)
World of Made and Unmade (Alice James Books, 2016)
Money Money Money | Water Water Water (Alice James Books, 2014)
The Usable Field (Alice James Books, 2008)
House of Poured-Out Waters (University of Illinois Press, 2001)
The Lord and the General Din of the World (Sarabande Books, 1996)

By This Poet


I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought--
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me. 

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do. 
Meanwhile, we are dreaming: 

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us. 

The Origin

of what happened is not in language—
of this much I am certain.
Six degrees south, six east—

and you have it: the bird
with the blue feathers, the brown bird—
same white breasts, same scaly

ankles. The waves between us—
house light and transform motion
into the harboring of sounds in language.

Where there is newsprint
the fact of desire is turned from again—
and again. Just the sense

that what remains might well be held up—
later, as an ending.
Twice I have walked through this life—

once for nothing, once
for facts: fairy-shrimp in the vernal pool—
glassy-winged sharp-shooter

on the failing vines. Count me—
among the animals, their small
committed calls.—

Count me among
the living. My greatest desire—
to exist in a physical world.