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Joy Ladin

Joy Ladin was born in 1961 and received a BA from Sarah Lawrence College in 1982. Ladin went on to earn an MFA in creative writing/poetry from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1995 and a PhD in English from Princeton University in 2000.

Often devotional and at times based in history and utilizing sacred Jewish texts, Ladin’s early poetry “offers a personal view of the big truths,” writes Stanley Moss.

In 2007, Ladin became the first openly transgender employee of Yeshiva University, an Orthodox Jewish institution. Ladin has published numerous poetry collections, including The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017), Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017), Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015), Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009), The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007), and Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003).

Ladin is also the author of a memoir, Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012). Ladin says, “When I started writing as myself, I started writing about feelings, tastes, colors, relationships, and I found myself writing with much more depth, confidence, authority and power, because I wasn’t hiding anymore. I had always lived in my writing, but now I was living in plain sight, living in truth, writing toward wholeness as a human being instead of trying to hide behind my words.”

Ladin is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Hadassah Brandeis Research Fellowship, two Forward Fives awards, an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, and a Fulbright Scholarship. Ladin teaches at the Stern College of Yeshiva University, where she holds the David and Ruth Gottesman Chair in English.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
The Future Is Trying to Tell Us Something (Sheep Meadow Press, 2017)
Fireworks in the Graveyard (Headmistress Press, 2017)
Impersonation (Sheep Meadow Press, 2015)
The Definition of Joy (Sheep Meadow Press, 2012)
Coming to Life (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010)
Psalms (Wipf & Stock, 2010)
Transmigration (Sheep Meadow Press, 2009)
The Book of Anna (Sheep Meadow Press, 2007)
Alternatives to History (Sheep Meadow Press, 2003)

Prose
Through the Door of Life: A Jewish Journey Between Genders (University of Wisconsin Press, 2012)
Soldering the Abyss: Emily Dickinson and Modern American Poetry (2010)

Joy Ladin
Photo credit: Elizabeth C. Denlinger

By This Poet

9

Time Passes

Time too is afraid of passing, is riddled with holes
through which time feels itself leaking.
Time sweats in the middle of the night
when all the other dimensions are sleeping.
Time has lost every picture of itself as a child.
Now time is old, leathery and slow.
Can’t sneak up on anyone anymore,
Can’t hide in the grass, can’t run, can’t catch.
Can’t figure out how not to trample
what it means to bless.

Tarot Readings Daily

They’re reading Tarot cards right now,
in the little pink house with the sign in the yard.
Shadows spider across still-green lawn
whose fate, so far, defies the frosts.

Someone asks the right question,
draws the right card.
Many cups in the immediate future;
radiance pouring down.

They know the future,
the creatures in the yard:
night, thirst, frost.
Only the sapiens in the house believe

fire, water, air, and earth
would bother to reveal
when to fear and love.
The one who’s paying

draws another card.
Outside, in the yard,
a squirrel noses seed that fell
like radiance, from above.

 

Between Wars

You’ve lost your soul again. Go back
to the window. Note the crocus
defying expectations

in the bed your mother hunkers over,
missing you, in her fashion,
now that you’re always there.

Why don’t you wear your uniform, she asks.
Will you ever get out of bed,
running her hand through your uncombed curls,

sweating eau de toilette
that forces you both to remember
the hollows she cannot scent.

Several soldiers’ buttons
glitter in her trowel, a spectacular find
that conjures and erases

the sad, stained trench
in which their bodies vanished.
Your mother gives a cry of surprise.

The child she bore
bears you no resemblance; only
this habit of losing your soul

suggests yours is the head
she brushed, in a perfumed cloud,
straightening what wasn’t tangled,

as something rolled across the floor,
where she would never find it. 
Many surrenders later,

what glittered and rolled
perforated by equidistant holes
while you froze in her haze of fragrance

has surfaced among the spears of crocus,
as though the boys who burst their buttons
jabbing dummies with bayonets

had risen from their graves,
untangled, untarnished,
ready to forgive.