Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Lee Ann Roripaugh

Lee Ann Roripaugh was born in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1965. She holds an MM in music history, a BM in piano performance, and an MFA in creative writing, all from Indiana University.

Her first volume of poetry, Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books, 1999), was selected by Ishmael Reed for the National Poetry Series. She is also the author of Dandarians (Milkweed Editions, 2014), On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009), and Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004), winner of the Association of Asian American Studies Book Award in Poetry/Prose.

Roripaugh’s other honors include an Academy of American Poets Prize, an AWP Intro Award, and the 1995 Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize.

In his review of On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year, Ray Gonzalez wrote, "Lee Ann Roripaugh’s poems create a true book of seeing. Her poems show us the way toward redemption as they fill these pages with a life of discovery and meaning.”

In 2015, Roripaugh was appointed to the position of South Dakota poet laureate. She teaches creative writing at the University of South Dakota and is the editor of the South Dakota Review.


Bibliography

Dandarians (Milkweed Editions, 2014)
On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (Southern Illinois University Press, 2009)
Year of the Snake (Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)
Beyond Heart Mountain (Penguin Books, 1999)

By This Poet

1

badlands: a song of flux, out of time

ornate warble of meadowlarks
           burbling in melodic veronicas,
ribboning the spires, buttes, pinnacles,
           and gullies of sedimentary stone,
sage and sweet grass smudging the still-cool air

lush-bellied manatees of clouds somersault
           above an inching infestation—
cars, trailers, trucks, busses, airstreams—
           glittering carapaces twisting
their stranglehold around Yellow Mounds

                                 *

late spring baby goats
           nestle in to Pinnacles, at dusk,
a scatter of heartbeats, furred
           commas, blending clauses
to sun warmed sandstone

a big horn sheep blinks
           into my lens from between
his horns’ apostrophes—
           slit pupils iconic and slow
as gold cat’s-eye marbles

                                 *

shadow-hollowed, wind-ruffled
           stone’s mimetic shape-shifting
all metaphor and simile:
           like stiff-beaten cake batter
like striated molten glass

here, a disconsolate woman weeps
           behind spidery fingers
here, a sleepy elephant rests
           its trunk upon the ground
here, cubist lovers’ stilled in a flash-frozen kiss

                                 *

some say moonscape, or otherworldy,
           as if to mean something alien,
sandwiched between the banality
           of kitschy Sinclair station dinosaurs
and Wall Drug’s ubiquitous billboards

I think not moonscape but earthscape,
           not otherworldly, but innerworldy,
not alien, but indigenous, as in
           always already from and of
as in sovereign, as in not ours

                                 *

unexpected wingbeat, talon, and spray
           of gold flint-sparking the light
when one of the golden eagles surfing currents
           near Sharps Formation by Castle Trail
plummets to swoop in front of my Jeep

its sharp-eyed, curious gaze catches me gawking
           through the windshield, and suddenly
I’m no longer the voyeur, but the spied upon,
           and before it kites skyward again
I am, in those seconds, all spotlit halo, golden blaze

                                 *

a cottontail backlit by sunset,
           thin-membraned ears glowing
with the hot orange of tea-light’s flicker
           behind glass, has its picture taken
by a happy group of Chinese tourists

for a brief moment, the cottontail
           is simultaneously framed within
the bright rectangles of five iPhones, all lit up
           within the bright rectangle of my iPhone:
molten-eared bunnies within bunnies / #meta

                                 *

how infinitesimal our millenia
           how tightly folded
our lives’ tiny accordions within
           the time-lapsed tidal flux
of geological deposition and erosion

someone breaks a pottery bowl in slow motion:
           can you imagine the apocalyptic scatter
of ammonites and clams, the beautiful wreckage
           of an ocean’s millennial spill
from a mountain-cracked basin of broken raku?