The Sunday Poem: Jean Valentine

 

Jean Valentine (Photo by Max Greenstreet)

Jean Valentine (Photo by Max Greenstreet)

 

In Prison

 

In prison
without being accused

 

or reach your family
or have a family            You have

 

conscience
heart trouble

 

asthma
manic-depressive

 

(we lost the baby)
no meds

 

no one
no window

 

black water
nail-scratched walls

 

your pure face turned away
embarrassed

 

you
who the earth was for.

 

 

 

 

About Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine was born in Chicago, earned her B.A. from Radcliffe College, and has lived most of her life in New York City. She won the Yale Younger Poets Award for her first book, Dream Barker, in 1965. Her eleventh book of poetry is Break the Glass, just out from Copper Canyon PressDoor in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems 1965 – 2003 was the winner of the 2004 National Book Award for Poetry.

Valentine was the State Poet of New York for two years, starting in the spring of 2008. She received the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, a $100,000 prize which recognizes outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry. Valentine has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the NEA, The Bunting Institute, The Rockefeller Foundation, The New York Council for the Arts, and The New York Foundation for the Arts, as well as the Maurice English Prize, the Teasdale Poetry Prize, and The Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Prize in 2000. She has also been awarded multiple residencies at The MacDowell Colony.
Valentine has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the Graduate Writing Program of New York University, Columbia University, and the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

Poet Adrienne Rich said, “Looking into a Jean Valentine poem is like looking into a lake: you can see your own outline, and the shapes of the upper world, reflected among rocks, underwater life, glint of lost bottles, drifted leaves. The known and familiar become one with the mysterious and half-wild, at the place where consciousness and the subliminal meet.This is a poetry of the highest order, because it lets us into spaces and meanings we couldn’t approach in any other way.”

For more information about Jean Valentine and her work, please visit her website.

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“In Prison” © Jean Valentine. This poem originally appeared in The New Yorker and was reprinted with permission by the author and Copper Canyon Press. “In Prison” appears in Valentine’s most recent collection Break the Glass.


 

By | 2016-11-11T21:55:28+00:00 09.24.11|The Sunday Poem, Words|Comments Off on The Sunday Poem: Jean Valentine

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.