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Naomi Replansky

Naomi Replansky was born in the Bronx in 1918. The daughter of Russian-Jewish immigrants, she began writing poems at a young age. By her mid-teens, she was publishing poems in literary journals and anthologies. During the 1940s and 1950s, she worked in a factory in New York City and as a translator in Los Angeles.

In 1952, Replansky published her first book, Ring Song (Scribner), which was nominated for a National Book Award. She is also the author of Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, 2012), which won the 2013 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994).

Replansky is known for her lifelong dedication to social causes. Of her work, Philip Levine writes, “Replansky is an intensely political poet, appalled by the cruelty, greed, and corruption of the masters of nations and corporations, appalled and enraged. I was drawn first to her lyricism, but I soon saw the rightness of her vision….”

B. H. Fairchild writes, “Replansky has become the master of a Blakean music radically unfashionable in its devotion to song-like meters and the reality and politics of working-class experience.”

With her partner, the writer and scholar Eva Kollisch, she received the 2015 Clara Lemlich Award honoring women who have spent their lives working for the larger good. She lives in New York City.


Bibliography

Collected Poems (Black Sparrow Books/David R. Godine, 2012)
The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems, 1934–1994 (Another Chicago Press, 1994)
Ring Song (Scribner, 1952)

By This Poet

7

The Weeping Sea Beast

Tentacled for food,
You range your underwater neighborhood.
 
To look, to like, to eat, to break your fast! 
Before you move an inch an hour is past,
 
Your prey is past, a swarm of scales, an eye,
A round fish eye, a rude unblinking eye.
 
You close on nothing; slowly you untwine
Your many arms and trail them through the brine.
 
Now sailors at the surface hear you cry,
And from those heights they cannot fathom why.
 
For there are agile creatures all around
Who dart like flames through this rich hunting ground
 
And others who lie still and gaping wide
And make no move; but armies come inside.
 

I Met My Solitude

I met my Solitude. We two stood glaring.
I had to tremble, meeting her face to face.
Then she saying, and I with bent head hearing:
“You sent me forth to exile and disgrace,
 
“Most faithful of your friends, then most forsaken,
Forgotten in breast, in bath, in books, in bed.
To someone else you gave the gifts I gave you,
And you embraced another in my stead.
 
“Though we meet now, it is not of your choosing.
I am not fooled. And I do not forgive.
I am less kind, but did you treat me kindly?
In armored peace from now on let us live.” 
 
So did my poor hurt Solitude accuse me.
Little was left of good between us two.
And I drew back: “How can we stay together,
You jealous of me, and I laid waste by you?
 
“By you, who used to be my good provider,
My secret nourisher, and mine alone.
The strength you taught me I must use against you,
And now with all my strength I wish you gone.” 
 
Then she, my enemy, and still my angel,
Said in that harsh voice that once was sweet:
“I will come back, and every time less handsome,
And I will look like Death when last we meet.” 
 

Night Prayer for Various Trades

Machinist in the pillow's grip,
Be clumsy and be blind
And let the gears spin free, and turn
No metal in your mind.
 
Long, long may the actress lie
In slumber like a stone,
The helpless words that rise from sleep
Be no words but her own.
 
Laborer, drift through a dark
Remote from clay and lime.
O do not tunnel through the night
In unpaid overtime.
 
You out-of-work, walk into sleep.
It will not ask to see
Your proof of skill or strength or youth
And shows its movies free.
 
And may the streetcleaner float down
A spotless avenue.
Who red-eyed wake at morning break
All have enough to do.
 
Enough to do. Now let the day
Its own accountings keep.
But may our dreams keep other time
Throughout our sprawling sleep.