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Ned O'Gorman


Born in New York City on September 26, 1929, Ned O'Gorman spent most of his early life in Southport, Connecticut, and Bradford, Vermont. After graduating from Saint Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, in 1953, he pursued graduate work at Columbia University. He later founded the Children's Storefront School in Harlem.

O'Gorman was the author of six books of poetry, Five Seasons of Obsession: New and Selected Poems (Books & Co., September 2001), The Flag the Hawk Flies (1972), The Harvesters' Vase (1968), The Buzzard and the Peacock (1964), Adam Before His Mirror (1961), and The Night of the Hammer, which was the Lamont Poetry Selection for 1958.

He was the recipient of two Guggenheim fellowships and the Rothko Chapel Award for Commitment to Truth and Freedom.

O'Gorman taught at Brooklyn College, the New School, and Manhattan College. He died on March 7, 2014, in New York City.

A Selected Bibliography


The Night of the Hammer (1958)
Adam Before the Mirror (1961)
The Harvesters' Vase (1968)
The Flag the Hawk Flies (1972)
Five Seasons of Obsession: New and Selected Poems (2001)


The Storefront: A Community of Children on 129th Street and Madison Avenue (1970)
The Wilderness and the Laurel Tree: A Guide for Teachers and Parents on the Observation of Children (1972)
Children Are Dying (1978)

By This Poet



When the panther came
no belfrey rang alarums,
no cleric spat his tea.
When the panther came
the sky and lawn were still.
The panter came
through forest, 
through field,
up to the wall
and my one blossoming cherry tree.

I had constructed 
the world as it was
and had pared the body
from the customs of languor.
It pressed its nose against 
the pane and its gears
ground me away into ribbons
of dissonance.

It turned and sauntered
into the shadows. Its
paw marks on the earth
like cherries too ripe in a white bowl. 

Peace, after Long Madness

After a long madness peace is an assassin in the heart. Where there had been the clenched fist, the strung out sinew, the hamstrung grin, the erect eye and hand on every shadow like a spy, now the river springs from the crystal of its sleep in a sapphire lunge to the sea. A year of madness is a libation poured out of nettles and boiled herbs, of knives oiled with honey that cut silently to the spine. I was madness's kin, no, more its parent blood, its coursing lymph, its skeleton. I kept company with lunacy, broke bread with him, lay beside him, my head in his arms, felt him draw down the sheet to watch me as I shook and so it was one year till now. Now the rocks become a sweetness in the listless meadow, the lutist brays to the ashes, flowers in the red crystal bowl push against the windowpane and I sleep again, my hands beneath my cheek, legs straight out, eyes shut against the inward stratagem of dream and the bedsheets and counterpane lie upon me no more leaded capes of knobbed steel, but companions of my skin, like the surface of my river is kindred balm to the volcanoes and riven headlands that lie beneath it like pain.


Where the pulp lifts its germ and the sludge of beauty sighs,
where the leaf pulls the branch to the breathy earth,
where the rind cracks and buds rust into petals,
where the clove steams and cinnamon bark spits out cinnamon air,
where roots sweat and the earth boils in curds of steaming mud,
where the stem draws up the seed and holds it like a lamb to the sun,
where flowers rest their animal heads,
there, full throated, limp with seed, lush and smiling is

To come upon her you must journey through the rains,
and sleep through a night of fish smells;
there must be a dead man in a hot room,
there must be a basket of figs and plums on the pier,
there must be no new ship in the harbor,
there must be the sound of flowers falling upon flowers,
there must be no children swimming in the salt pools.

Where the Flamboyant spills into the vulcan dust,
where the wild pig chews up the door frames,
where the leper kneads his bones,
where the sun is stuffed with guns,
where the water flows like honey from the tap,
where black flies swell in the gecko's translucent belly,
where these are, there is
Vegetable-Life: The Sultana of the Vine,
The Goddess of the Harvest Gone Bad, The Spectrum Swallower.

In an ointment of wild saps, ripe fronds and mosses, tumid wheat,
and bareley, Abundance pours down over the head, heavy with pollen
and in the puce interrogation of the harvest
the intellect sprouts leaves.

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