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Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Portfolio

In an introduction to a portfolio showcasing the poet Marie Ponsot who won the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, Poetry Editor Christian Wiman starts, “Marie Ponsot wrote many of the poems for which she will be remembered while raising seven children all by herself.” He goes on to say that, “If that sentence alone doesn’t cause you to pause in awe for a moment, then I’d wager you haven’t experienced the demands and decibels of the little darlings. Ponsot herself knew all to well the cost . . . The wonder is that she knew . . . the wonder.”

Here is a sampling, the first stanza of Ponsot’s “A Visit”:

Come for duty’s sake (as girls do) we watch
The sly very old woman wile away from her pious
And stagger-blind friend, their daily split of gin.
She pours big drinks. We think of what
Has crumpled, folded, slumped her flesh in
And muddied her once tumbling blood that, young,
Sped her, threaded with brave power: a Tower,
Now Babel, then of ivory, of the Shulamite,
Collapsed to this keen dame moving among
Herself. She hums, she plays with used bright
Ghosts, makes real dolls, and drinking sings Come here
My child, and feel it, dear. A crooking finger
Shows how hot the oven is.

Read the full poem and portfolio in Poetry‘s May 2013 issue.

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