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Marianne Boruch

1950–

Born on June 19, 1950, in Chicago, Marianne Boruch earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois and her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, where she studied with James Tate. She is the author of nine books of poems, including Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing (Copper Canyon Press, 2016), Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014); The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon Press, 2011), winner of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award; Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan University Press, 2010); and Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin College Press, 2004).

Exploring the essential in the mundane and everyday, Boruch’s poems are known for their precision, calm attention, and careful reserve. Poet David Young writes that Boruch isn’t “flamboyant or flashy, armored in theory or swimming with a school. Her poems eschew the need for stylistic eccentricity or surface mannerisms. They are contained, steady, and exceptionally precise. They build toward blazing insights with the utmost honesty and care."

An essayist as well as a poet, Boruch has also published the critical works The Little Death of Self (University of Michigan Press, 2017), In the Blue Pharmacy (Trinity University Press, 2005) and Poetry’s Old Air (University of Michigan Press, 1995), as well as a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana University Press, 2011).

Boruch has earned fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

She has taught at Tunghai University in Taiwan and the University of Maine at Farmington. In 1987, she developed the creative writing MFA program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, serving as its first director until 2005, and she remains on the faculty today. Since 1988, she has also taught semi-regularly in the low-residency MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina. She lives in West Lafayette, Indiana.


Bibliography

Poetry

Eventually One Dreams the Real Thing (Copper Canyon Press, 2016) 
Cadaver, Speak (Copper Canyon Press, 2014)
The Book of Hours (Copper Canyon Press, 2011)
Grace, Fallen from (Wesleyan University Press, 2010)
Poems: New and Selected (Oberlin College Press, 2004)
A Stick that Breaks and Breaks (Oberlin College Press, 1997)
Moss Burning (Oberlin College Press, 1995)
Descendant (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)
View from the Gazebo (Wesleyan University Press, 1985)

Nonfiction

The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana University Press, 2011)
In the Blue Pharmacy (Trinity University Press, 2005)
Poetry’s Old Air (University of Michigan Press, 1995)

Marianne Boruch
Photo credit: Will Dunlap

By This Poet

9

Little Fugue

Everyone should have a little fugue, she says,
the young conductor 
taking her younger charges through
the saddest of pieces, almost a dirge
written for unholy times, and no, 
not for money.
                Ready? she tells them, measuring out 
each line for cello, viola, violin.
It will sound to you
not quite right. She means the aching half-step
of the minor key, no release
from it, that always-on-the-verge-of, that
repeat, repeat.
              Everyone should have a little fugue--
I write that down like I cannot write
the larger griefs. For my part, I 
believe her. Little fugue I wouldn't
have to count.

Still Life

Someone arranged them in 1620.
Someone found the rare lemon and paid
a lot and neighbored it next 
to the plain pear, the plain
apple of the lost garden, the glass
of wine, set down mid-sip—
don’t drink it, someone said, it’s for
the painting.  And the rabbit skull—
whose idea was that?  There had been
a pistol but someone was told, no,
put that away, into the box with a key
though the key had been
misplaced now for a year.  The artist
wanted light too, for the shadows. 
So the table had to be moved. Somewhere
I dreamt the diary entry
on this, reading the impossible
Dutch quite well, thank you, and I can
translate it here, someone writing
it is spring, after all, and Herr Muller
wants a window of it in the painting, almost
a line of poetry, I thought even then,
in the dream, impressed 
with that "spring after all," that 
"window of it" especially, how sweet
and to the point it came over
into English with no effort at all
as I slept through the night. It was heavy,
that table. Two workers were called
from the east meadow to lift
and grunt and carry it
across the room, just those
few yards.  Of course one of them
exaggerated the pain in his shoulder. 
Not the older, the younger man. 
No good reason
to cry out like that.  But this
was art. And he did, something
sharp and in the air that 
one time. All of them turning then,
however slightly. And there he was, 
eyes closed, not much 
more than a boy, before 
the talk of beauty
started up again.

What God Knew

when he knew nothing.  A leaf
looks like this, doesn’t it? No one
to ask. So came the invention
of the question too, the way all 
at heart are rhetorical, each leaf
suddenly wedded to its shade. When God 

knew nothing, it was better, wasn't it? 
Not the color blue yet, its deep 
unto black.  No color at all really, 
not yet one thing leading to another, sperm 
to egg endlessly, thus cities, thus 
the green countryside lying down 
piecemeal, the meticulous and the trash, 
between lake and woods 
the dotted swiss of towns along 
any state road. Was God

sleeping when he knew nothing?  As opposed 
to up all night (before there was night) 
or alert all day  (before day)?  As opposed to that,
little engine starting up by itself, history, 
a thing that keeps beginning
and goes past its end. Will it end, this
looking back?  From here, it's one shiny 
ravaged century after another, 
but back there, in a house or two: a stillness, 
a blue cup, a spoon, one silly flower raised up 
from seed.  I think so fondly of the day 
someone got lucky 
and dodged the tragedy meant for him. It spilled 
like sound from a faulty speaker
over an open field. He listened from
a distance. God-like, any one of us
could say.

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