Friday Favorites — David Ray


, , , , ,

David Ray

David Ray was born in Sapulpa, Oklahoma in 1932. Ray comes from a broken home that was thrown into upheaval when his father left the family by hopping on the back of a watermelon truck headed to California. After his mother’s next failed marriage ended in the suicide of Ray’s stepfather, he and his sister Mary Ellen were placed into foster care—a system that wasn’t kind to young children in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Ray’s classic “Mulberries of Mingo” steeps from memories of he and his sister being thrown out of a foster families home at dinner time – to fend for themselves eating the mulberries from a neighbor’s tree. The years that followed were dark and tragic as he and his sister were separated to face their separate nightmares of abuse.

He is a distinguished award winner, and has lectured and read at over 100 Universities in England, Canada and the U.S. Graduating from the University of Chicago, BA, MA; he became a co-founder of the American Writers Against the Vietnam War, and has been commonly quoted in recent anti-war actions.

Ray’s poetry varies from short, three to four lines pieces, to longer 30 lines poems. His work is also often autobiographical, providing unique context and insight to scenes of childhood, love, fear, sex, and travel. “Communication is important to him, and he has the courage, working with a genre in which simplicity is suspect, to say plainly what he means.” He is particularly noted for poems that, while being rooted in the personal, also show a strong social concern.

Ray is the author of twenty-two volumes of poetry, including “Hemingway: A Desperate Life” (2011), “When” (2007), “Music of Time: Selected and New Poems” (2006) and The Death of Sardanapalus and Other Poems of the Iraq Wars (2004). “After Tagore: Poems Inspired by Rabindranath Tagore” was published in India in 2008.

He has taught at several colleges in the United States, including Cornell University, Reed College, the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he is professor emeritus. He has also taught in India, New Zealand, and Australia, and has published books inspired by the cultures of each country.

Some of his awards include the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation Poetry Prize (2001), the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award (1997), the Maurice English Poetry Award (1988) for Sams Book, and he has been a two-time winner of the William Carlos Williams prize from the Poetry Society of America (1979, 1994) for “The Tramp’s Cup” and Wool Highways. Ray’s poetry is individual yet strongly social, allowing him freedom to relate to a wide demographic. With Robert Bly, David co-founded American Writers Against the Vietnam War in 1966 and they co-edited A POETRY READING AGAINST THE VIETNAM WAR, a collection of relevant readings from the classics as well as contemporary sources.

Among other prizes, including an N.E.A. fellowship for fiction and five P.E.N. Newspaper Syndicate Awards for short stories, David Ray is a two-time winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America.

He is the founding editor of New Letters Magazine and New Letters on the Air. His work has appeared in Harper’s, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Iowa Review, and many others. He has also held faculty positions at Cornell, University of Missouri-Kansas City, University of Iowa, and Reed, as well as visiting positions at Syracuse, and universities in India, Australia, and New Zealand.

The David Ray Poetry Award: Named in his honor, this award was sponsored by the now defunct journal Potpourri; A Magazine of the Literary Arts.

He and his wife, poet and essayist Judy Ray, live in Tucson, Arizona. (Wikipedia)

It took me a minute to realize what this poem was talking about Now I keep wondering what happened to his son...


In The Third Month

First snow wet against the windshield.
I drive by the storefront where we found
his blue Toyota. How he loved that car–
put fur upon the dashboard to cover cracks–
then he and his girl devotedly stretched leather
across the back seat making a love nest.
And they went out to Western Auto and bought
a little fan, the kind bus drivers use,
and mounted it to blow down upon them
when they made love, parked by a roadside
or perhaps in one of those shadowed drive-ins.
It’s a weekend and I’m about my errands,
Bach’s Sleepers Awake on FM. The tears
pour down as I think how much he wanted to be a man,
simply a man with his woman and his car,
later his fireside books, those I still have,
saved too long to pass on–The Way of All Flesh,
A Shropshire Lad, Don Quixote,
and one stamped in gold but with all pages blank.


Picture Source —