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Lisa Russ Spaar

Lisa Russ Spaar received a BA from the University of Virginia in 1978 and an MFA in 1982.

She is the author of several poetry collections, including Orexia (Persea Books, 2017), Vanitas, Rough (Persea Books, 2012), and Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999).

The Boston Review notes, “Lisa Russ Spaar’s intensely lyrical language—baroque, incantory, provocative—enables her to reinvigorate perennial subject matter: desire, pursuit, and absence; intoxication and ecstasy; the transience of earthly experience; the uncertainties of god and grave; the dialectic between fertility and mortality.”

She is also the author of The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry (Drunken Boat Media, 2013), a collection of poetry history and criticism, and she was a 2014 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Citation for Excellence in Reviewing. She has edited multiple poetry anthologies, including Monticello in Mind: Fifty Contemporary Poets on Jefferson (University of Virginia Press, 2016).

Spaar has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry, and a Rona Jaffe Award, among other honors and awards. She is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Virginia.

Selected Bibliography

Orexia (Persea Books, 2017)
Vanitas, Rough (Persea Books, 2012)
Satin Cash (Persea Books, 2008)
Blue Venus (Persea Books, 2004)
Glass Town (Red Hen Press, 1999)

The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry (Drunken Boat Media, 2013)

By This Poet


After John Donne's "To his Mistress Going to Bed"

What might she send — a wet sleeve, 
or platter of brine-latticed bluefish

dusky with capers, lemons, wine;
a briar for your thumb, a mouth, 

lunatic,  to suck the blood:
a signal that one too often

inside & now beside herself with thoughts
of you wonders how she might woo

and through dew-whetted keyhole 
pursue & sing & win? She is marvelous 

with waiting. Come. Hunt here.
Relieve with hands and tongue her heavy hour.

The Wishbone: A Romance

Never to belong again to wings
     that lifted, to heart,
to blood’s forsaking bodice:

this lyric forceps,
     felled flèche d’amour,
furcular picked and dried

with earthy feints of sage
     & fused with remnant gristle—
clavicles tongued, now thumbed,

memento mori
     of a hard year. Why not,
then, after giving thanks,

break it, too—
     talismanically? What good
is loss starved forever after?

To keep from freezing,
     even a priest might commit
the Virgin’s statue to the flames.

Temple Tomb

      John 20: 11–18

In this marrow season,
trunks tarnished, paused,

I am garden. Am before.
Asleep. Then the changes:

placental, myrrhed. Wet hem
when you appeared.

What did your body ever have
to do with me? In my astonished mouth,

enskulled jawbone guessed,
though as yet I didn’t know you.

You sprung. You now intransitive,
tense with heaven.

Gardener, which of us said do not touch.
Which one of us was undressed?