May 8, 2023

Jonathan Greene (USA) 1943

Jonathan Greene (USA)

Born in New York City in 1943, Jonathan Geene graduated from Barnard School (now part of Horace-Mann) in Riverdale, New York in 1960. In 1965 he completed his university education at Bard College, writing a thesis on Hermann Broch and where he studied with Ralph Ellison. Greene studied poetry with Robert Lowell at the New York Writers Conference in 1961, and studied folklore with Alan Dundes at the University of California in 1963. Three years later, he moved to Kentucky, where he still lives.  
     Greene's first book The Reckoning in 1966, and over the next five decades would publish 28 full sized books and chapbooks, including poetry, essays, and letters. He has also published essays and translations in publications such as The Merton Annual and Rural Japan (Smithsonian) and his work has been represented in numerous anthologies, including The American Literary Anthology, New Directions Annuals 20 and 34, The Gist of Origin, Active Anthology, Bookworms, What Book!?, Home, and Clotheslines.
     He has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, the Southern Federation of State Arts Agencies, and the Kentucky Arts Council.
     Since 1965 Greene has edited and published over sixty books under the Gnomon Press imprint, including works by Robert Duncan, Wendell Berry, Cid Corman, Jonathan Williams, James Still, Jim Wayne Miller, and Robert Morgan. He worked for The University of Kentucky as Designer and Production Manager from 1967-1976. He continues to do free-lance book design and has won a number of awards in this field.


The Reckoning (Annandale-on-Hudson, New York: Matter Books, 1966); Instance (Lexington, Kentucky: Buttonwood, 1968); The Lapidary (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1969); A 17th Century Garner (Lexington, Kentucky: Buttonwood, 1969); An Unspoken Complaint (Santa Barbara: Unicorn Press, 1970); Scaling the Walls (Lexington, Kentucky: Gnomon, 1974); Glossary of the Everyday (Toronto: Coach House, 1974); Peripatetics (St. Paul: Truck, 1978); Once a Kingdom Again (Berkeley, California: Sand Dollar, 1979); Quiet Goods (Monterey, Kentucky: Larkspur, 1980); Idylls (Rocky Mount, North Carolina: Iron Mountain, 1983); Small Change for the Long Haul (Barrytown, New York: Station Hill, 1984); Trickster Tales (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1985); Idylls [enlarged, revised edition] (North Carolina Wesleyan Press, 1990); Les Chambres des Po├Ętes (French Broad, 1990); The Man Came to Haul Stone (New York: Dim Gray Bar, 1995); Inventions of Necessity (Frankfort, Kentucky: Gnomon Press, 1998); Of Moment (Frankfort, Kentucky: Gnomon Press, 1998); The Little Ink of the Paper Sea (San Francisco: Tangram, 2001); Watching Dewdrops Fall (Eugene, Oregon: Mountains and Rivers Press, 2003); Hummingbird's Water Trough (Guilford, Vermont: Longhouse, 2003); Fault Lines (Frankfort, Kentucky: Broadstone Books, 2004); The Death of a Kentucky Coffee-Tree & Other Poems (Guilford, Vermont: Longhouse, 2006); Hut Poems (Eugene, Oregon: Mountains and Rivers, 2007); Heart Matters (Frankfort, Kentucky: Broadstone Books, 2008)

Winner of the PIP Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative Poetry in English

The Time We Live In

Great Tree of the World.

That world came apart, splintered.

Some pieces of the tide brought in
now dry enough for kindling one long night

beached on the edge of what we knew.

Reprinted from Backwoods Broadsides, No. 101 (2006)
(c)2006 by Jonathan Greene


Works sculpted in marble,
blown in glass,

shaped in bowls
by master potters —

that, after years of use,
the simplest action,

the same as a hundred times before,
can suddenly shatter —

hidden fault lines
in the heart of things.

(from Fault Lines) © 2004 by Jonathan Greene

The Manufacture of Rain

As the rain starts
it is as if the first drops
are the hardest
to produce.

Some set up time is required,
minute calibrations, calculating
a storm’s severity so that the wrath
of God will be noticed.

Or tuned for the slightest drizzle
so a couple might need to
lean into each other
wordlessly declaring their love.

Once the engines have warmed up,
there is an ease to its repetition.
The walkers with eyes downcast.
The rain returning from foreign seas.

(from Fault Lines) © 2004 by Jonathan Greene

Snow Arithmetic

Snow on top of snow
and then more snow —
it seems by addition
snow subtracts our traces
and the busy tracks
go mute and the sun —
a pristine zero.

(from Fault Lines) © 2004 by Jonathan Greene

Beach Walking

So much beauty evanesces
like foam lace
the incoming tide
is busy tatting.

But before you capture
one eyeful, it falls apart,
intermingles with what
the next wave brings.

An art with no staying power,
that makes no claims upon the world
and is not seen as art, wraps around
your ankles. One more thing

to make you love this world.

(from Heart Matters) © 2008 by Jonathan Greene

Always There

Think of antique nested babushkas

or the equivalent grandfather figures.

Inside inside inside the last one —
ourselves, the child we never left behind


(from Heart Matters) © 2008 by Jonathan Greene

The Art of Invisibility

As a child, did I hide behind my parents not wanting to
shake the hands of stran gers? I was pushed forward.

In life I do not rise to the top as cream. Hidden in murky
waters (my own, the river we live on) after a storm.

Nominated for top prize, I drop off the honorable mention
list. After my name is spoken, it becomes a whisper, without echo.

Perhaps gesture is all? I could skywrite poems over vast
desolate tundra or write in invisible ink, be the only one
knowing what im mortal words had vanished.

Those I once knew well have a habit of faintly re mem ber ing
my name, nothing else. Or, not even that.

I will pass unnoticed, no burden to the chroniclers in later times.

Forget you ever read this.

(from Heart Matters) © 2008 by Jonathan Greene

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