Poet of the Month
Dorianne Laux is the author of several collections of poetry, including What We Carry (1994), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Smoke (2000); Facts about the Moon (2005), chosen by the poet Ai as winner of the Oregon Book Award and also a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Book of Men (2011), which was awarded the Paterson Prize; and Only As the Day is Long: New and Selected (2019). She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and has been a Pushcart Prize winner.
Laux’s free-verse poems are sensual and grounded, and they reveal the poet as a compassionate witness to the everyday. She observed in an interview for the website Readwritepoem, “Poems keep us conscious of the importance of our individual lives ... personal witness of a singular life, seen cleanly and with the concomitant well-chosen particulars, is one of the most powerful ways to do this.” Speaking of the qualities she admires most in poetry, Laux added, “Craft is important, a skill to be learned, but it’s not the beginning and end of the story. I want the muddled middle to be filled with the gristle of the living.” She was first inspired to write after hearing a poem by Pablo Neruda. Other influences include Sharon Olds, Lucille Clifton, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich.
Laux has taught creative writing at the University of Oregon, Pacific University, and North Carolina State University; she has also led summer workshops at Esalen in Big Sur. She is the co-author, with Kim Addonizio, of The Poet’s Companion: A Guide to the Pleasures of Writing Poetry (1997). She lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, with her husband, poet Joseph Millar
Enjoy one of Laux's poems:
We put the puzzle together piece
by piece, loving how one curved
notch fits so sweetly with another.
A yellow smudge becomes
the brush of a broom, and two blue arms
fill in the last of the sky.
We patch together porch swings and autumn
trees, matching gold to gold. We hold
the eyes of deer in our palms, a pair
of brown shoes. We do this as the child
circles her room, impatient
with her blossoming, tired
of the neat house, the made bed,
the good food. We let her brood
as we shuffle through the pieces,
setting each one into place with a satisfied
tap, our backs turned for a few hours
to a world that is crumbling, a sky
that is falling, the pieces
we are required to return to.
Mom would say
“We’re going to Jones,”
and my siblings and I
would pile into the car.
I was always excited
to spend the day
on the warm sand,
listening to the sound
of the waves
too frightened to go in,
scared I’d be swallowed
by the water,
but always so entranced
by the small treasures
after the big crash.
I would walk
up and down the shore
looking for pieces
to add to my collection.
They came in all shapes,
colors, and sizes
waiting to be taken home
and placed on the highest self
to be admired for years to come.
And even as I grow
and become friends with the waves
eager to jump into
their crisp cool embrace,
I will always remember
to take a tiny gem
to add to my trove.