Joseph Stroud was educated at the University of San Francisco, California State University at Los Angeles, and San Francisco State University. He is currently retired from teaching at Cabrillo College.
He has published five collections of poetry, most recently Of This World; New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2008) and Country of Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2004). His work earned a Pushcart Prize in 2000 and has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. He was also a finalist for the Northern California Book Critics Award in 2005 and a year later was selected for a Witter Bynner Fellowship in poetry from the Library of Congress.
Varied in subject and form, Stroud’s poems include six-line lyrics, narrative prose poems, odes, homages, sustained contemplations, suites, and brief epigrammatic offerings. However it is substance, whatever form it takes, that interests him. His poetry articulates a voyage through places and times and voices, often sifting through the details of daily life, searching for miracles (“Inside the pear there’s a paradise we will never know, our only hint the sweetness of its taste.” – Comice, Below Cold Mountain).
He divides his time between his home in Santa Cruz, California, and a cabin in the Sierra Nevada.
I like this poem for the simple reason that I get a knot in my throat when I read it. I find myself wondering if I ever did that to my own kids…
Trying to tie my shoes, clumsy, not able to work out
the logic of it, fumbling, as my father stands there,
his anger growing over a son who can’t even do
this simplest thing for the first time, can’t even manage
the knot to keep his shoes on—You think someone’s
going to tie your shoes for you the rest of your life?—
No, I answer, forty-five years later, tying my shoe,
hands trembling with this memory. My father
and all those years of childhood not being able to work out
how he loved me, a knot so tight it has taken all my life