Marianne Boruch

Marianne Boruch earned her MFA at the University of Massachusetts, where she studied with James Tate, among others. She writes surprising, engaging poetry that is intimate, often humorous, but never afraid of the darker components of human experience, exploring the world around her with curiosity and searching skepticism. David Young writes that Boruch is not “flamboyant or flashy, armored in theory or swimming with a school. Her poems eschew the need for stylistic eccentricity or surface mannerisms. They are contained, steady, and exceptionally precise. They build toward blazing insights with the utmost honesty and care.”

This is work that lets itself be triggered by contrary events and people, in order to launch themselves into unpredictable questions, often investigating a remembered Catholic childhood, the delights and challenges of domestic life, or the varieties of the Midwestern landscape. “Marianne Boruch’s poetry embraces the art of surprise,” writes Claire Keyes. “While her poems celebrate the mundane (swimming with her son, appreciating the beauty of a flower), they transform the common and the everyday into the extraordinary and unreal…. She opens up avenues between the real and worlds that exist just beyond the edges of consciousness.”

A distinguished professor of English at Purdue, as well as serving on the faculty of the Warren Wilson MFA program, Boruch has won two Fellowships in Poetry from the NEA, among other awards and honors, most recently a Rockefeller Bellagio Foundation Fellowship. Her Poems New & Selected was released in 2004, and late last year saw the publication of a new collection, Grace, Fallen from. Boruch is also known as an wonderfully idiosyncratic writer of essays about poetry and poets; many of these prose pieces have been collected in Poetry’s Old Air (1995), and In the Blue Pharmacy (2005). Her poems and essays have also appeared in The New Yorker, The Southern Review, and The Yale Review to name a very few.

Boruch’s week-long residency at Smith will consist of workshops and student conferences, in addition to the February 24th reading and the February 26th lecture, “The Little Death of Self,” in which she explores the first-person speaker in poems, with reference to work by Gerard Manley Hopkins, Lucia Perillio, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, and others.

Poetry Center Reading:

Spring 2009

Little Fugue

Everyone should have a little fugue, she says,
the young conductor
taking her younger charges through
the saddest of pieces, almost a dirge
written for unholy times, and no,
not for money.
Ready? she tells them, measuring out
each line for cello, viola, violin.
It will sound to you
not quite right. She means the aching half-step
of the minor key, no release
from it, that always-on-the-verge-of, that
repeat, repeat.
Everyone should have a little fugue—
I write that down like I cannot write
the larger griefs. For my part, I
believe her. Little fugue I wouldn’t
have to count.


My Son and I Go See Horses

Always shade in the cool dry barns
and flies in little hanging patches like glistening fruitcake.
One sad huge horse
follows us with her eye. She shakes
her great head, picks up one leg and puts it down
as if she suddenly dismissed the journey.

My son is in heaven, and these
the gods he wants to father
so they will save him. He demands I
lift him up. He strokes the old filly’s long face
and sings something that goes like butter
rounding the hard skillet, like some doctor
who loves his patients more
than science. He believes the horse

will love him, not eventually,
right now. He peers into the enormous eye
and says solemnly, I know you. And the horse
will not startle nor look away,
this horse the color of thick velvet drapes,
years and years of them behind the opera,
backdrop to ruin and treachery, all
innocence and its slow
doomed unwinding of rapture.


Snowfall in G Minor

Overnight, it’s pow! The held note
keeps falling. And only seems
slow. Because it’s just
frozen rain, what’s the big deal? the checker
in Stop and Shop told me.
Save warmth
like stamps. The fade of their color
in the 1920s. Airmail. The pilot with his
skin-tight goggle helmet on his
miniature head could be
All heads are small. Mine’s
lost as a thimble
in this weather. Where
a finger should be and be
sewing, every thought
I ever thunk.
Just this word
thunk. Never used.
It lands, noisy
metal in a bucket. That’s
the last of it. No echo
for miles of this
snowfall—as in
grace, fallen from,
as in a great height, released
from its promise.