Published on Academy of American Poets (


There is nothing concrete to grasp in
looking into the morning sky

The evidence of red-eye
flights east a plane drawn line presents

is not a wheelbarrow solid enough
dependency as day and night

carry   in coming and going
You don't see the poem

saying anything you can't see in it
White dashes of contrails'

seemingly unmoving streak towards sunrise
disquiet the pale otherwise

unpunctuated blue of dawn   
breaks it off                Here is that silence


Copyright © 2011 by Ed Roberson. Used with permission of the author.


Ed Roberson

Ed Roberson was born in 1939 in Pittsburgh. He earned his BA at the University of Pittsburgh and later completed graduate work at Goddard College. His first collection of poetry, When Thy King Is a Boy (Pitt Poetry), was released in 1970, the same year in which he completed his undergraduate degree.

Roberson is the author of many poetry collections, including Aquarium Works (Nion Editions, 2022); Asked What Has Changed (Wesleyan University Press, 2021), a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize; MPH and Other Road Poems (Verge Books, 2021); To See the Earth Before the End of the World (Wesleyan University Press, 2010); The New Wing of the Labyrinth (Singing Horse Press, 2009); City Eclogue (Atelos, 2006); Atmosphere Conditions (Green Integer, 1999); Just In: Word of Navigational Change: New and Selected Work (Talisman House, 1998); and Voices Cast Out to Talk Us In (University of Iowa Press, 1995). Roberson’s poetry has also appeared in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry 2004 and Primary Trouble: An Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry (Talisman House, 1996), among other publications.

C. D. Wright has described Roberson’s work as “lyric poetry of meticulous design and lasting emotional significance,” comparing its musical qualities to the work of saxophonist Steve Lacy, jazz pianist Thelonious Monk, and composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Poet and critic Reginald Gibbons, in his review of The New Wing of the Labyrinth, celebrates Roberson as a “master of a hauntingly meditative rhythm of thought and perception.”

A recipient of the Jackson Poetry Prize and the Stephen Henderson Critics Award for Achievement in Literature, Roberson has also won a Los Angeles Times Book Award, the 2008 Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, the 1998 National Poetry Series Award, and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. In 2017, he received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, which recognizes distinguished poetic achievement.

Formerly a professor of literature and creative writing at Rutgers University, Roberson now resides in Chicago, where he has taught at the University of Chicago and Columbia College Chicago. He is currently artist-in-residence at Northwestern University. In January 2023, Roberson was elected to become a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2011-11-09

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