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In Memoriam: Daneen Wardrop & Laura Boss

When a poet dies there is a vast caesura, a field of lilacs interrupted by wing beats and heartbeats and aches and aches and: snugly in the ampersand at the end of a life, they shine there, an em dash, a last ellipsis, a lovely lock of gray hair on the wrist of a daughter—…&

Last week, two wonderful poets died within a day of each other: Daneen Wardrop and Laura Boss.

Wc11-wardrop2-revI didn’t know Daneen (except through her poetry), but I was reading an advance copy of her latest book when I heard from the publisher we share about her passing. Wardrop’s newest collection, Endless Body, is part of a three-book-in-one collection called Trio, which also features books by Diane Raptosh and Karen Donovan, due out this summer. I had read her book, Silk Road, last year and was impressed by its virtuosic technique, it’s intense interiority, and the imaginative heft of the collection’s central persona (Donata Polo, Marco’s wife). Wardrop, a noted Dickinson scholar, imbibed and alchemized the inebriate air at the epicenter of Emily’s poems. Wardrop’s poems, especially those in her forthcoming collection, were transformative, transcendent, elegant, precise. Reading them I could not help but be amazed and reassured by the poet’s immensely intelligent, deeply loving, and wildly original presence. She is one of many many poets whose work deserves a wider readership and whose life in poetry has enriched us all.

Here are links to some of Daneen Wardrop’s books:

Trio: Planet Parable, Run: A Verse-History of Victoria Woodhull, and Endless Body (Etruscan Books, 2021)

Silk Road (Etruscan Press, 2018)

Cyclorama (Fordham University Press, 2015)

Emily Dickinson and the Labor of Clothing (University of New Hampshire Press, 2009)

Here is a link to Wardrop’s poem, “name,” on the Academy of American Poets website.

Boss-bydavidbergeland-therecord-sq350I first met Laura Boss sometime around 2012 at a reading at the PCCC Poetry Center in Paterson, New Jersey. Laura came up to me after the reading, said some kind words about a poem I had read, and quoted back a few lines that she admired. The handful of times I read in Paterson after that first occasion, I would always look for her in the crowd, usually sitting next to her longtime friend and Poetry Center director, Maria Mazziotti Gillan. Maria and Laura were alike in their enthusiasm for poets and for poetry, in their deep listening to the music around them, and in their fierce support of fellow poets.

Laura Boss founded Lips poetry magazine in 1981. She published Robert Bly, Allen Ginsberg, Ruth Stone, David Ignatow, Marge Piercy, Michael Benedikt, Anne Waldman, Ishmael Reed, Gregory Corso, Ted Berrigan, Toi Derricotte, Alice Notley, Hal Sirowitz, Alicia Ostriker, Molly Peacock, and many more. She wrote an accessible autobiographical poetry, straightforward, rich, searching, and wild. She lived an amazing life in poetry. The next time I read in Paterson I’ll still look for her in the crowd.

Here are links to some of Laura Boss’s books:

The Best Lover (NYQ Books, 2017)

Flashlight (Guernica Editions, 2010)

Arms: New and Selected Poems (Guernica Editions, 1999)

Here is one of Laura’s poems:

for Gregory Corso

I lived with Gregory for a year
or rather he lived with me
And though it was only a year,
it seemed like twenty
At night on my brown velvet sofa
he would write in his Chinese red silk
embroidered covered journal
with his brown ink Mont Blanc pen
that he had asked me to buy for him
and to get one for myself (though I never did)
The TV would be on and in memory always
tuned to a baseball game–
In the mornings we would make the run to Christie Street
for him to pick up what he needed to survive the day–
At this point, I was on a hopeless mission to get him to stop
to get rid of his years of bad habits
I was wearing my invisible Wonder Woman cape
but I was never successful like Wonder Woman
Sometimes we would go out to Maxwell Plum’s but
he could never sit for more than half the lunch
He took me to see the movie Napoleon but we only
stayed for half(it was incredibly long)
He stayed in my apartment and painted a self-portrait of himself
He kept changing the face–even once made himself black–
He had the skyline of San Francisco behind him
He painted a portrait of his friend Kerouac–
He painted a portrait of me and my eyes turquoise though
they are green and even made the sky turquoise
He made me look like a bitch—but the colors were beautiful
We went to San Francisco to find an apartment
but came back to New York when we were called that Ted Berrigan had died–
There was never I realize a chance that we would make it
We were like a fragile, fragrant homemade candle—
Its slight flickering wick
just waiting for the oncoming tsunami wave to blow it out.

(Originally published in the Connecticut River Review)


April 15, 2021

April 13, 2021

April 08, 2021

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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