BORDIGHERA PRIZE: Distinguished Poet/Judge 2013-2014: Lia Purpura

Allegories | Beginning | First Leaf

Lia Purpura is the author of seven collections of essays, poems and translations, most recently, Rough Likeness (essays, Sarabande Books, January 2012). Her awards include a 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award (for the essay collection On Looking), NEA and Fulbright Fellowships, three Pushcart prizes, work in Best American Essays, 2011, the AWP Award in Nonfiction, and the Beatrice Hawley award, and Ohio State University Press award in Poetry. Recent work appears in Agni, Field, The Georgia Review, Orion, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She is Writer in Residence at The University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and teaches in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA Program.


That crag, in its hunching,
suggests a shawl
under which we can slip
our burdens, since
we alone among creatures
bestow likenesses
for assurance
we really exist,
and name boulders and peaks
Widow’s this, Widow’s that,
so others might navigate
by the forms
of our grief.

In the beginning,
in the list of begats,
one begat
got forgot:
work begets work
(one poem
the next.)
In other words,
once there was air,
a bird
could be got.
Not taken.
Not kept.
But conjured up.

First Leaf

That yellow
was a falling off,
a fall
for once I saw
coming —
it could
in its stillness
still be turned from,
it was not
yet ferocious,
its hold drew me,
was a shiny switchplate
in the otherwise dark,
rash, ongoing green,
a green so hungry
for light and air that
part gave up,
went alone,
chose to leave,
and by choosing
got seen.

BORDIGHERA PRIZE: Distinguished Poet/Judge 2013-2014: Lia Purpura Copyright (C) 2013 by Lia Purpura. First appeared in The New Yorker magazine. All right, including electronic, are reserved by the author.

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