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Rosmarie Waldrop

1935–

On August 24, 1935, Rosmarie Waldrop was born in Kitzingen am Main, Germany. At the age of ten, she spent half a year acting with a traveling theater. She has studied at Würzburg, Freiburg, Aix-Marseille and Michigan Universities, earning her PhD in 1966. She has lived in the United States since 1958.

Waldrop began publishing her poetry in English in the late 1960s and since 1968 has been co-editor and publisher of Burning Deck Press with her husband, the poet and translator Keith Waldrop. The pair met in 1954 while he was stationed in Kitzingen after the Second World War.

She is now the author of more than three dozen books of poetry, fiction, and criticism, most recently her trilogy Curves to the Apple: The Reproduction of Profiles, Lawn of Excluded Middle, Reluctant Gravities (New Directions, 2006), and a collection of essays, Dissonance (University of Alabama Press, 2005).

Her other poetry titles include Splitting Image (2006), Blindsight (2004), Love, Like Pronouns (2003), Well Well Reality (1998, with Keith Waldrop), Reluctant Gravities (1999), Split Infinites (1998), Another Language: Selected Poems (1997), A Key Into the Language of America (1994), Lawn of the Excluded Middle (1993), Peculiar Motions (1990), Shorter American Memory (1988), The Reproduction of Profiles (1987), Streets Enough to Welcome Snow (1986), Differences for Four Hands (1984), Nothing Has Changed (1981), When They Have Senses (1980), The Road Is Everywhere or Stop This Body (1978), and The Aggressive Ways of the Casual Stranger (1972).

In the early 1970s, she spent a year in Paris, where she met several leading avant garde French poets, including Claude Royet-Journoud, Anne-Marie Albiach, and Edmond Jabès. These writers not only influenced Waldrop's work greatly, but worked with her as she became one of the main translators of their work into English, with Burning Deck acting as a major vehicle in introducing their work to an English-language readership.

She has since translated more than twenty books, including works by Paul Celan, Elke Erb, Joseph Guglielmi, Emmanuel Hocquard, Friederike Mayröcker, Jacques Roubaud, and Alain Veinstein. She received the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award for her 1993 rendering of The Book of Margins by Edmond Jabès.

About her work, the poet Diane Wakoski has said, "Rosmarie Waldrop writes the poetry of everyday life and asks her reader to look beyond it, not by dazzling you with spectacular images or fancy metaphors but by simply quietly invoking you to look, listen, reflect."

Waldrop's honors include the Rhode Island Governor's Arts Award, the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Citation for Translation, a Translation Center Award, and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts in Poetry and Translation.

She has taught at Wesleyan University and, as occasional visitor, at Tufts and Brown. She currently lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

By This Poet

7

from "Inserting the Mirror"


Is it possible to know where a word ends and my use of it begins? Or to locate the ledge of your promises to lean my head on? Even if I built a boundary out of five pounds of definition it could not be called the shock of a wall. Nor the pain the follows. Dusk cast the houses in shadow, flattening their projections. Blurred edges, like memory or soul, an event you turn away from. Yet I also believe that a sharp picture is not always preferable. Even when people come in pairs, their private odds should be made the most of. You went in search of more restful altitudes, of ideally clear language. But the bridge that spans the mind-body gap enjoys gazing downstream. All this time I was holding my umbrella open.

 

 

As long as I wanted to be a man I considered thought as a keen blade cutting through the uncertain brambles in my path. Later, I let it rust under the stairs. The image was useless, given the nature of my quest. Each day, I draw the distance to cover out of an anxiety as deep as the roots of language. I keep my eye on the compass while engaging the whole width of the field, and whereas, to others, I may look like a blur of speed from one point in time to another, I know I am not advancing an inch and will never arrive. Even if I could arrive the mirror would only show the other mirrors I have set up at every stop to catch the spirit of passage.

 

 

It rained so much that I began to confuse puddles with the life of the mind. Perhaps what I had taken for reflection was only soaking up the world, a cross of sponge and good will through the center of the eye. But to describe the inner world, you know, by definition, even the patient definitions of psychology, is impossible. Hard to know if it can be lived. Revoked edge of water and dry land. A falling fear. The sudden color of a word. But it's the sky, pale gray, abundantly thrown back from far enough behind the eye, as you imagine an image, seeing earth in every direction.

Pleasure Principle

							     For Joan Retallack

Of course it’s not easy to believe in your own dream. The working of instinct near water. Not orchards. Not apples or pears. Not nowadays. I don't know how psychoanalysis has no hesitation on how dark the night can get. The world, which is unfinished, occupying more and more of the sky.


Emotion as unpleasurable tension, the high passage of the moon. The laundry. Sensitivity won't do it. Therefore and quite often we lie down in stubbled fields. The voice of the cicada. Tells nothing.


Any day lies thick in the garden I propose to enter. Then fills with secret rivers that darkness feeds on. Lapsed sense of history. No massacre. The cicadas relentlessly.


It doesn't matter if your feet are small. When you're asleep. The fruit trees enormous. A motor idles in the foreground. If, with quicker travel, things did indeed turn out according to one's wildest. If a child could be born from something not a mother.


The circumstance that the wife occupies the inner room and rarely if ever comes out is called the pleasure principle. In certain societies. Suddenly made clear by the cicadas. The meaning of life, absolutely. Distinguished from the now moonless garden.


And hooded with fabric like mirrors not in use. And like appearance refusing itself. A pleasure that cannot be felt as such to transcend becoming strange.


An orchard in the foreground. With beginnings of unease immediately behind.

Not a Description

							for Elizabeth Willis

Only on skin and muscles can we, without harming ourselves, build a symbolic system. She stood at the heart of the matter, holding an egg. A child was being beaten. We recorded everything. Recoded everything. A fish was being eaten. A cry is not a description.


Much of what we observe about the skin. She blushed deeply, perched on the bedpost. Throat parched. We used scientific language without, however, understanding the adjective. She did not want to drop the egg. A cry which cannot be called a description cannot therefore be called swimming in the nude. Tiny fish like silver needles with the current.


Asked point blank, she said a cry was neither a description nor represented in the frontal region. We believed nothing. Conceived nothing. Even with powerful gravitational pull, an angel's complexion resists. She felt a lull in eye movement. Should she go back to sleep? With somebody else's marriage band on her finger?


When the surgeon's knife penetrates the skin, not all persons can be made to look alike. Though given the same pain. If she dropped the egg she would break the dream. Scenes rife with fainting make us want rain. Whales in smooth, hipless motion rising high out of the water. That someone can utter a cry does not mean she can describe the nature of overtones. Or stains linked to association areas.


A cry, which is not a description, is not an image either. Exactly what was removed from her pelvis? The dream narrowed to the fear that comes after. The feel of cold fish scales. Against her skin. Fins out of water. Damage to the battery will affect all connections, whereas damage to a single wire depends on its position in the circuit.


A cry, which is more primitive than a description nevertheless is a description. Heat brought from inside the body to the surface of the skin and rapidly lost. The speed depends on the assembled crowd. The machine's warm parts rest on the floor. The word is not innocent. The dream not interpreted. Not all fibres cross to the opposite side of the brain.