Ron Padgett

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Ron Padgett
RP by John Sarsgard cropped.jpg
Born (1942-06-17) June 17, 1942 (age 80)
Tulsa, Oklahoma, US
Occupationpoet, writer, translator
Education Columbia University
Notable worksCollected Poems

Ron Padgett (born June 17, 1942, Tulsa, Oklahoma) is an American poet, essayist, fiction writer, translator, and a member of the New York School. Great Balls of Fire, Padgett's first full-length collection of poems, was published in 1969. He won a 2009 Shelley Memorial Award. [1] In 2018, he won the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America. [2]


Early life and education

Padgett’s father was a bootlegger in Tulsa, Oklahoma. [3] He influenced many of Padgett's works, particularly in the writer's taste for independence and a willingness to deviate from rules, even his own. [3] This would later be described as a stubborn streak of boyishness, allowing a wry innocence in his poetry. [4]

Padgett started writing poetry at the age of 13. [5] In an interview, the poet said that he was inspired to write when a girl he had a big crush on did not return his affection. [6] In high school, Padgett became interested in visual arts while continuing to write poetry. He befriended Joe Brainard, the visual artist who also became a well-known writer. [7] They, with fellow Central High student Dick Gallup, co-founded the avant-garde literary journal The White Dove Review. Padgett and Gallup solicited work for TheWhite Dove from Black Mountain and Beat Movement writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, LeRoi Jones, Paul Blackburn, Gilbert Sorrentino, and Robert Creeley. After five issues, Padgett, on his way to college, retired the White Dove.

In 1960, Padgett left Tulsa to study at Columbia College in New York City. At that time he was interested in Pound, Rimbaud, the Black Mountain poets, and the Beats [7] but soon he fell under the spell of the New York School, [8] particularly the poetry of Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, James Schuyler, and Kenneth Koch. [9] In an interview, Padgett said that he went to Columbia partly because Ginsberg and Kerouac had gone there. [7] After receiving his B.A. (1964), Padgett briefly studied creative writing at Wagner College with Kay Boyle, Howard Nemerov, and Koch. On a Fulbright Fellowship [10] (Paris, 1965–66) he studied 20th-century French poetry.


From 1968 to 1969 Padgett was a workshop leader for The Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery in New York City. With David Shapiro, Padgett co-edited An Anthology of New York Poets, published by Random House in 1970. He founded The Poetry Project Newsletter in 1972. Padgett also worked in poet-in-the-school programs nationally from 1969 to 1976. After directing The Poetry Project for two and a half years, he became the publications director of Teachers & Writers Collaborative [11] (1980-2000), where he also edited The Teachers & Writers Collaborative Newsletter.

Padgett was a cofounder, publisher, and editor of Full Court Press from 1973 to 1988, bringing out books by Ginsberg, Brainard, O'Hara, Edwin Denby, Tom Veitch, William S. Burroughs, Larry Fagin, Philippe Soupault, John Godfrey, and others. At the same time, he lectured and taught at educational institutions, including Atlantic Center for the Arts, Brooklyn College, and Columbia University. He also hosted a poetry radio series and the designer of computer writing games. Padgett's papers are held by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.


Padgett is the author of more than twenty poetry collections, including Great Balls of Fire (1969, reissued 1990); You Never Know (2001); How to Be Perfect (2007); How Long (2011); and Collected Poems (2013). Seven of Padgett's poems are featured in Jim Jarmusch's 2016 film Paterson, [12] including three written expressly for the film. Like Padgett, Jarmusch studied poetry under Kenneth Koch at Columbia University. [13]

Padgett collaborated with poet Ted Berrigan and artists Jim Dine, George Schneeman, Bertrand Dorny, Trevor Winkfield, and Alex Katz, along with Joe Brainard.

Other works

Padgett is also the author of nonfiction works, including Blood Work: Selected Prose (1993), Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (1993), Creative Reading (1997), and The Straight Line: Writing on Poetry and Poets (2000), Oklahoma Tough: My Father, King of the Tulsa Bootleggers (2003), and Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard (2004). [11] Padgett’s novella Motor Maids across the Continent appeared in 2017 from Song Cave. His numerous works on education and writing include The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms (editor), The Teachers & Writers Guide to Walt Whitman (editor), and Educating the Imagination (co-editor). He was also the editor of the three-volume reference work, World Poets (2000). [14]

Padgett also translated French poets Blaise Cendrars, Max Jacob, Pierre Reverdy, Valery Larbaud, and Guillaume Apollinaire. [11] Book-length collections of his own work have been translated into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Faroese, German, Finnish, Norwegian, and Italian.

Awards and honors

His grants, fellowships. and awards include a Guggenheim (1986), a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (1996), [15] the French Ministry of Culture and Communication (2001), the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and the Academy of American Poets (2016). His book How Long was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 [16] and his Collected Poems won the L.A. Times Book Prize in 2013. [17] He was also the recipient of grants and awards for his translations, which include those given by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Columbia University’s Translation Center. [14]

Personal life

Padgett and his wife, Patricia Padgett, who also grew up in Tulsa, have lived in the same East Village apartment since 1967. [13] They also have a rustic retreat in Vermont where they spend their summers. [20] The couple's son Wayne was born in 1966. [20]





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  2. 1 2 "Frost Medalists - Poetry Society of America". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  3. 1 2 ""'It's alright, students, not to write': What Ron Padgett's Poetry Can Teach Us," by Jeremy Over, Writing In Education 71 (2017)". A Collective History of American Poetry and Poetics. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  4. Gordinier, Jeff (2015-07-08). "Review: Looking Inward in Poetry Books From Ron Padgett and Nick Flynn". The New York Times. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  5. Good Poems for Hard Times. Penguin. 2006-08-29. ISBN   9781440684494.
  6. Lopez, Natalina (2016-12-29). "Meet the Poet Behind Adam Driver's New Film 'Paterson'". Town & Country. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  7. 1 2 3 "An Interview with Poet Ron Padgett". Believer Magazine. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  8. Kline, Joshua. The White Dove Review: How a Group of Tulsa Teens Created a Literary Legend This Land Press (2010).
  9. Meyer, Eugene (2017-07-06). "The Poet Laureate of Paterson". Columbia College Today. Retrieved 2019-09-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. "Padgett, Ron 1942- |". Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  11. 1 2 3 Foundation, Poetry (2019-08-26). "Ron Padgett". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  12. Lopez, N., "Meet the Poet Behind Adam Driver's New Film Paterson", Town & Country, Dec 29, 2016.
  13. 1 2 "How the Poet Ron Padgett Spends His Sundays". The New York Times. 2017-01-26. ISSN   0362-4331 . Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  14. 1 2 "Ron Padgett",
  15. "Grant Recipients :: Foundation for Contemporary Arts". Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  16. Jollimore, Troy (April 17, 2012). "Book World: Tracy K. Smith's 2012 Pulitzer-winning poems are worth a read". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  17. "2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winners Announced". Los Angeles Times. 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  18. Carolyn Kellogg (April 11, 2014). "Jacket Copy: The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are ..." LA Times . Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  19. "Robert Creeley Foundation » Award – Robert Creeley Award". Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  20. 1 2 "Ron Padgett Biography". Retrieved 2019-09-06.