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.

While you’re here, don’t forget to check out the Gwarlingo home page, which is updated daily. Right now, you can preview Gwarlingo’s Pick of the Week–Made the Harbor by Mountain Man, view art by painter Mark Wethli, see the latest reader comments, get an update on the fundraising efforts of filmmakers Micah Garen and Marie-Hélène Carelton, plus view Gwarlingo’s “Photo of the Week”–a striking image of summer sea ice on the Arctic Ocean.

If you enjoy Gwarlingo, please consider subscribing by email. (It’s easy, safe, and free, and you won’t have to remember to keep checking the website). You can also follow me on Twitter and Facebook or share a “like” on the Gwarlingo Facebook page.


“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’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) 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, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.

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)

Comments are closed.