The Sunday Poem : Meghan O’Rourke


Meghan O’Rourke (Photo by Sarah Shatz)





The wind is alive, it lifts and swings;
the river is alive, it drifts past
the sugar factory;
the grass is alive, it trembles or shakes,
the ants are alive, they move through the brown grass;
the dirt is alive, moist with rain.
In endeavor and industry
the stones among the earth all live.
What then are you, captive
of glass, moving so slowly and dully?
A delinquent; nobody’s darling,
a daughter in the way of the wind—




About Meghan O’Rourke

Meghan O’Rourke began her career as one of the youngest editors in the history of The New Yorker. Since then, she has served as culture editor and literary critic for Slate, as well as poetry editor and advisory editor for The Paris Review. Her essays, criticism, and poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The Nation, Vogue, Poetry, and Best American Poetry. O’Rourke has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and a finalist for the Rome Prize of the Academy of Arts and Letters.

O’Rourke is also the author of the poetry collection Halflife (2007). The poem “Extraneous” will appear in her forthcoming collection, Once, which will be published by Norton in October of this year. In April of 2011 her book, The Long Goodbye, a memoir of grief and mourning written after the death of her mother, was published to critical acclaim. She lives in Brooklyn, where she grew up, and in Marfa, Texas. For more information about Meghan O’Rourke and her work, please visit her website.


Click here to learn more about The Sunday Poem series and to read last week’s poem by Andrea Cohen. You can also add a comment about “Extraneous” or share this poem on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

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“Extraneous” Copyright © Meghan O’Rourke. Reprinted with permission by the author.



By | 2016-11-11T21:55:54+00:00 07.23.11|The Sunday Poem, Words|1 Comment

About the Author:

I'm a writer, photographer, and the creator of Gwarlingo, a crowd-funded arts & culture journal that covers contemporary art, music, books, film, and the creative process. I’ve spent nearly 20 years as an arts enabler, helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I’ve also done time at an arts magazine, a library, and an art museum in Atlanta. For two years I cared for injured eagles, hawks, and owls at a raptor rehabilitation center in Vermont. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, consulting, and creative projects full-time. (You can check out my recent projects here.) I’ve appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, served as the judge for A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Literary Prize, and received fellowships from the Hambidge Center and Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts. My writing and photography have appeared in RISD XYZ magazine, 2Paragraphs, Psychology Today, Born Journal, and other publications. I offer one-on-one coaching sessions, group workshops, and speak to businesses, arts groups, and students about overcoming the psychological and practical barriers to producing your best work. (Read more here .) If you'd like to work with me one-on-one or hire me to speak at your school, business, or organization, please contact me at michelle (at) gwarlingo (dot) com. -

One Comment

  1. DJS July 25, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    This is a subtle, moving, enigmatic poem: vintage O’Rourke, to be sure….The last line is the most tragic-feeling line in the entire piece, however touching it is to consider in the light of my own lost parent: a son, as it were, in the way of storms…This poet of the immensities has said, recently, that she may be writing about the matter of mortality for the rest of her life…I for one, believe her. With a peripatetic mind and energized life such as hers, Ms. O’Rourke would be one of the last to be pin-pointed as “captive of glass,” unless of course by the slowness she records there, she’s referring to the unpolished way in which our self-absorbed worlds — of culture, of psyche — lumber along in relation to Nature’s larger…vitalities. It’s an interesting question to ask, and a painful one, I suspect, to contemplate….Perhaps it is the relativism of the apparently inanimate and the obviously alive, in a way, that this penetrating thinker is after with the slightly misleading extraneity as her subject….I take her…at her word that identities can feel lost in moments of brutal separation, distance, unrecovery; I also think the arts…provide only a part-sincere route to knownness and the greater collectivism…

    (Note: This comment has been edited for length)

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