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Martha Ronk

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1940, Martha Ronk attended Wellesley College and earned a PhD from Yale University.

She is the author of several collections of poetry, including Ocular Proof (Omnidawn, 2016); Transfer of Qualities (Omnidawn, 2013); Partially Kept (Nightboat, 2012); Vertigo (Coffee House Press, 2007), which was selected by C. D. Wright as a part of the National Poetry Series; and Desire in LA (University of Georgia Press, 1990). She is also the author of two chapbooks.

In addition to poetry, she has written a collection of short stories, Glass Grapes: And Other Stories (BOA Editions, 2008); and an ironic memoir, Displeasures of the Table (Green Integer, 2001).

About Ronk's work, the poet Norma Cole says, "Ronk, in her 'looking for / the conjunction of the past and the present,' produces a poetry that questions the context of living, its arrangements, its decisions. Her sure-footed investigation is equaled by its prosody of progression/recursion in a particular lexicon of grace and elegance."

Ronk is the recipient of the 2005 PEN USA award in poetry, a MacArthur summer research grant, the Gertrude Stein Award, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

She has taught at Colorado University, Otis College of Art and Design and the Naropa University Summer Writing Program. She currently lives in Los Angeles and is a professor of English at Occidental College.


Bibliography

Poetry
Ocular Proof (Omnidawn, 2016)
Transfer of Qualities (Omnidawn, 2013)
Partially Kept (Nightboat, 2012)
Vertigo (Coffee House Press, 2007)
In a Landscape of Having to Repeat (Omnidawn, 2004)
Why/Why Not (University of California Press, 2003)
Recent Terrains (Johns Hopkins Press, 2000)
Eyetrouble (University of Georgia Press, 1998)
State of Mind (Sun & Moon Books, 1995)
Desert Geometries (Littoral Books, 1992)
Desire in LA (University of Georgia Press, 1990)

Prose
Glass Grapes: And Other Stories (BOA Editions, 2008)
Displeasures of the Table (Green Integer, 2001)

Martha Ronk
Photo credit: Marcel Shain

By This Poet

6

Why knowing is (& Matisse's Woman with a Hat)

Why knowing is a quality out of fashion and no one can decide to
but slips into it or ends up with a painting one has never
seen that quality of light before even before having seen it
in between pages of another book and not remembering who knows
or recognizing the questionable quality of light on her face
as she sits for a portrait and isn't allowed to move an inch
you recognize the red silk flower on her hat
and can almost place where you have seen that gray descending
through the light reversing foreground and background
as the directions escape one as the way you have to
live with anyone as she gets up finally from her chair
having written the whole of it in her head as the question
ignored for the hundredth time as a quality of knowing is
oddly resuscitated from a decade prior to this.

A blurry photograph

The tree azalea overwhelms the evening with its scent,
defining everything and the endless fields.

Walking away, suddenly, it slices off and is gone.

The visible object blurs open in front of you,
the outline of a branch folds back into itself, then clarifies—just as you turn away—

and the glass hardens into glass

as you go about taking care of things abstractedly
one thing shelved after another, as if they were already in the past,

needing nothing from you until, smashing itself on the tile floor,
the present cracks open the aftermath of itself.

Location LA

Never arriving in a city missing in locational drift
plates shifting under building facades and whipped décor,
seas rising and falling at the edge of amusements
and surf. The migrations migrating elsewhere,
monarchs lost on their way south, children coming north
in droves on their way to anywhere else.
The city of lost souls blowing in the Santa Ana winds
and people who are not us no matter who we are.
Where is she now, he asks, what ever happened to the girl
named for a saint, the one with the ankle tattoo
the one who dropped out, lost out, & only just arrived.

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