About this poet

Alicia Ostriker was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. Ostriker received a BA from Brandeis University in 1959 and an MA and PhD in literature, in 1961 and 1964 respectively, from the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

She is the author of more than ten poetry collections, including Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017); The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014); At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010); The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009); The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002); The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998) which was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Award and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award; and The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award of the Poetry Society of America.

Her numerous books of critical writing include Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000), The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994), and Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986). She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1976.

About Ostriker, the author Joyce Carol Oates writes, "[She] has become one of those brilliantly provocative and imaginatively gifted contemporaries whose iconoclastic expression, whether in prose or poetry, is essential to our understanding of our American selves."

In 2015, Ostriker was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She is professor emerita of English at Rutgers University, and a faculty member of the Drew University's low-residency poetry MFA program. She divides her time between New York City and Princeton, New Jersey.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Waiting for the Light (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2017)
The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2014)
At the Revelation Restaurant and Other Poems (Marick Press, 2010)
The Book of Seventy (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009)
The Volcano Sequence (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2002)
The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998 (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998)
The Crack in Everything (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1996)
The Imaginary Lover (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1986)

Prose

Dancing at the Devil's Party: Essays on Poetry, Politics and the Erotic (University of Michigan Press, 2000)
The Nakedness of the Fathers: Biblical Visions and Revisions (Rutgers University Press, 1994)
Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Women's Poetry in America (Beacon Press, 1986)

Ghazal: America the Beautiful

Do you remember our earnestness our sincerity
in first grade when we learned to sing America

The Beautiful along with the Star-Spangled Banner
and say the Pledge of Allegiance to America

We put our hands over our first grade hearts
we felt proud to be citizens of America

I said One Nation Invisible until corrected
maybe I was right about America

School days school days dear old Golden Rule Days
when we learned how to behave in America

What to wear, how to smoke, how to despise our parents
who didn’t understand us or America

Only later learning the Banner and the Beautiful
live on opposite sides of the street in America

Only later discovering the Nation is divisible
by money by power by color by gender by sex America

We comprehend it now this land is two lands
one triumphant bully one still hopeful America

Imagining amber waves of grain blowing in the wind
purple mountains and no homeless in America

Sometimes I still put my hand tenderly on my heart
somehow or other still carried away by America

Copyright © 2013 by Alicia Ostriker. "Ghazal: America the Beautiful" has appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of The Atlantic and in the Winter 2013 issue of Logos. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2013 by Alicia Ostriker. "Ghazal: America the Beautiful" has appeared in the July-August 2012 issue of The Atlantic and in the Winter 2013 issue of Logos. Used with permission of the author.

Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937, Alicia Ostriker has been a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize. She currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

                    for Frank O’Hara

Frank, we have become an urban species
     at this moment many millions of humans are
          standing on some corner waiting like me

for a signal permitting us to go,
     a signal depicting a small pale pedestrian
          to be

poem
        —for Elizabeth Bishop

Tuwee, calls a bird near the house,
Tuwee, cries another, downhill in the woods.
No wind, early September, beeches and pines,

Sumac aflame, tuwee, tuwee, a question and a faint
But definite response, tuwee, tuwee, as if engaged
In a conversation expected to continue all
poem
But it's really fear you want to talk about
and cannot find the words
so you jeer at yourself

you call yourself a coward
you wake at 2 a.m. thinking failure,
fool, unable to sleep, unable to sleep

buzzing away on your mattress with two pillows
and a quilt, they call them comforters