Virginia

In 1963, Virginia established a state poet laureate position, which is currently held by Henry Hart, who was appointed to a two-year term in 2018. Hart is the author of several books of poetry and criticism, including Background Radition (Salt, 2007).

In 2016, Katherine E. Young was named poet laureate of Arlington County, Virginia. Young will serve a two-year term.

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Virginia poet laureaute
Tim Seibles

Tim Seibles was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1955. He received a BA from Southern Methodist University in 1977, after which he taught English at the high school level for ten years. He received an MFA from Vermont College in 1990.

Seibles is the author of several poetry collections, including One Turn Around the Sun (Etruscan Press, 2017), Fast Animal (Etruscan Press, 2012), a finalist for the 2012 National Book Award; Buffalo Head Solos (Cleveland State University Press, 2004); and Body Moves (Corona Press, 1988).

In the citation for the 2012 National Book Awards, the National Book Foundation notes, “Tim Seibles’ work is proof: the new American poet can’t just speak one language. In his new book, he fuses our street corners’ quickest wit, our violent vernaculars, and our numerous tongues of longing and love.”

In 2016 Seibles was selected as the poet laureate of Virginia. He has also received the Open Voice Award, the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Seibles has served as a professor at Old Dominion University for over twenty years. He lives in Norfolk, Virginia.


Selected Bibliography

One Turn Around the Sun (Etruscan Press, 2017)
Fast Animal (Etruscan Press, 2012)
Buffalo Head Solos (Cleveland State University Press, 2004)
Hammerlock (Cleveland State University Press, 1999)
Hurdy-Gurdy (Cleveland State University Press, 1992)
Body Moves (Corona Press, 1988)

Tim Seibles

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Virginia Evening

Just past dusk I passed Christiansburg,
cluster of lights sharpening
as the violet backdrop of the Blue Ridge
darkened. Not stars
but blue-black mountains rose
before me, rose like sleep
after hours of driving, hundreds of miles
blurred behind me. My eyelids
were so heavy but I could see
far ahead a summer thunderstorm flashing,
lightning sparking from cloud
to mountaintop. I drove toward it,
into the pass at Ironto, the dark
now deeper in the long steep grades,
heavy in the shadow of mountains weighted
with evergreens, with spruce, pine,
and cedar. How I wished to sleep
in that sweet air, which filled--
suddenly over a rise--with the small
lights of countless fireflies. Everywhere
they drifted, sweeping from the trees
down to the highway my headlights lit.
Fireflies blinked in the distance
and before my eyes, just before
the windshield struck them and they died.
Cold phosphorescent green, on the glass
their bodies clung like buds bursting
the clean line of a branch in spring.
How long it lasted, how many struck
and bloomed as I drove on, hypnotic
stare fixed on the road ahead, I can't say.
Beyond them, beyond their swarming
bright deaths came the rain, a shower
which fell like some dark blessing.
Imagine when I flicked the windshield wipers on
what an eerie glowing beauty faced me.
In that smeared, streaked light
diminished sweep by sweep you could have seen
my face. It was weary, shocked, awakened,
alive with wonder far after the blades and rain
swept clean the light of those lives
passed, like stars rolling over
the earth, now into other lives.

Afterlife

I’m older than my father when he turned
bright gold and left his body with its used-up liver
in the Faulkner Hospital, Jamaica Plain.  I don’t 
believe in the afterlife, don’t know where he is 
now his flesh has finished rotting from his long 
bones in the Jewish Cemetery—he could be the only 
convert under those rows and rows of headstones.  
Once, washing dishes in a narrow kitchen 
I heard him whistling behind me.  My nape froze.  
Nothing like this has happened since.  But this morning 
we were on a plane to Virginia together.  I was 17, 
pregnant and scared.  Abortion was waiting, 
my aunt’s guest bed soaked with blood, my mother 
screaming—and he was saying Kids get into trouble—  
I’m getting it now: this was forgiveness.
I think if he’d lived he’d have changed and grown
but what would he have made of my flood of words			
after he’d said in a low voice as the plane
descended to Richmond in clean daylight
and the stewardess walked between the rows
in her neat skirt and tucked-in blouse
Don’t ever tell this to anyone.

America (Assateague)

America, Every explorer names his island Formosa, beautiful
For being first, he alone, Walker Percy tells us, has access to it
and can see it for what it is. And doesn’tevery child call
its imagined pony by its secret name? A word to summon a large
& gentle wildness from empty air, its long face & warm breath
visible in that moment before it touches its muzzle to the dreaming
brow. In one metaphor, America, the tips of your right hand
might be The Aleutians; those of your left, The Florida Keys.

Today, everyone has come to see the horses, who have been here
for four hundred years. In myth, they descend from of a herd
brought on a Spanish galleon & swim ashore to their astonishing
freedom after the ship hits a sandbar in a storm & goes down.
America, this is a scene you have seen before: a dark hull of flesh.
Or they are the descendants of horses set out to graze by farmers
& inexplicably forgotten. You are an assemblage. Natural.
Unnatural. So little of you is not from somewhere else.

In the woods, where we cannot see them, the small spotted elk
from Taiwan—renamed deer, though their DNA would reveal
that that is not what they are—are settling down to sleep. The sky
& marsh purple & flood with the perfectly familiar: the bat,
the house mouse, the raccoon, the Norway rat, the least shrew,
the meadow jumping mouse, the possum, the fox, the vole.

And birds: eagles, ospreys, egrets, merlins & mallards, pin-tails
& even the remarkable & invasive Canada geese. So that
if I were pulled from my bed in the night to identify your body,
I might look here, to this island, half-north, half-south, as one does
to the pale, beloved & often-fingered freckle on the cocked hip
of a lover, where, even in twilight, a band of feral horses stirs
in the cordgrass & briar. The last light awing around their dark
eyes is an elegy to that species of shouting wonder emitted only
by toddlers before our wonder falls silent & reverential. Animals,
John Berger asserts, first entered the imagination not as leather
or meat but as messengers and promises, an elegy, or an augur,
for our tongues, before both our desire & outrage became crude.