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Jeffrey Thomson

Jeffrey Thomson received a PhD in creative writing from the University of Missouri in 1996, and he published his first book of poetry, The Halo Brace (Birch Brook Press) in 1998.

Thomson is the author of three additional poetry collections, including Birdwatching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009), which was awarded both the 2010 Maine Book Award and the 2011 ASLE Award in Environmental Creative Writing. Of Thomson’s work, the poet Bob Hicok says, “The sheer appetite of these poems, their intellectual drive and rhythmic insistence, conveys an almost physical sense of the poet’s curiosity, a wonder that deepens, over the course of the book, to a conveyance of his love for the fullness of the natural world.”

Thomson has also published the memoir fragile (Red Mountain Press, 2015) and several translations, including The Poems of Catallus (Cambridge University Press, 2015) with Jeannine Diddle Uzzi.

In 2012 Thomson received a Distinguished Fulbright Scholarship to the Seamus Heaney Poetry Centre in Belfast. He is also the recipient of fellowships from the Hodson Trust, the Maine Arts Commission, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others. He currently serves as an associate professor at the University of Maine–Farmington and lives with his wife and son in Farmington, Maine.

Selected Bibliography

Birdwatching in Wartime (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2009)
Renovation (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2005)
The Country of Lost Sons (Parlor Press, 2004)
The Halo Brace (Birch Brook Press, 1998)

fragile (Red Mountain Press, 2015)

By This Poet


For the Blind Man in the Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence

Our stories can only carry us so far. I know
there are layers beneath the layers and
you haven’t asked but I would describe
a fresco not even finished in the workshop,
discovered beneath damaged plaster here
in the Scuola del Cuoio. A simple Madonna
and child marked off with a draftsman's
patience, a sketch of faces each etched
with a different kind of cross. Evidence
of a man working out art’s proportions
like a map in the sand: golden mean in
the plaster and articulation balanced
between the bridge in the distance
for scale and the sketched-in step-child
abandoned almost in the foreground,
clutching at the mother’s skirts—all
the necessary work that gets covered over
in the finish, smoothed out and blessed
with plaster and color, that blinding light
cast by the angelic child, mother adoring.  
I would describe it all—but that’s easy
and I am not so foolish anymore. I know
you don’t need me to tell you this.
You know the chittering of swallows as
they fill the courtyard of the cloister and
the weight of sunlight on cypress and stone.
If meaning is made of anything you will
have heard it in the sound of great space
that flows down the stairs of the Pazzi chapel,
in the rattle of the tourist dragging
his bag on the pavers as he moves toward
enormous doors flung open into the heat.