BLOG 257: HAPPY BIRTHDAY DONALD JUSTICE!

It would have been Donald Justice’s 91st birthday today, and so we’re honouring him in the best way possible, by sharing and reading his poetry.

“Donald Justice (August 12, 1925 – August 6, 2004) was an American poet and teacher of writing. In summing up Justice’s career David Orr wrote, “In most ways, Justice was no different from any number of solid, quiet older writers devoted to traditional short poems. But he was different in one important sense: sometimes his poems weren’t just good; they were great. They were great in the way that Elizabeth Bishop’s poems were great, or Thom Gunn’s or Philip Larkin’s. They were great in the way that tells us what poetry used to be, and is, and will be.”[1]

Justice grew up in Florida, and earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami in 1945. He received an M.A. from the University of North Carolina in 1947, studied for a time at Stanford University, and ultimately earned a doctorate from the University of Iowa in 1954. He went on to teach for many years at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the nation’s first graduate program in creative writing. He also taught at Syracuse University, the University of California at Irvine, Princeton University, the University of Virginia, and the University of Florida in Gainesville.

Justice published thirteen collections of his poetry. The first collection, The Summer Anniversaries, was the winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize given by the Academy of American Poets in 1961; Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1980. He was awarded the Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1991, and the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry in 1996.”[2]

And for today’s blog on Ash Watson Poetry, I would like to share my favourite poem written by Donald Justice. This piece is called: ‘Bus Stop’.


Bus Stop

Lights are burning
In quiet rooms
Where lives go on
Resembling ours.

The quiet lives
That follow us—
These lives we lead
But do not own—

Stand in the rain
So quietly
When we are gone,
So quietly . . .
And the last bus
Comes letting dark
Umbrellas out—
Black flowers, black flowers.

And lives go on.
And lives go on
Like sudden lights
At street corners

Or like the lights
In quiet rooms
Left on for hours,
Burning, burning. [3]


[1] Orr, David (August 29, 2004). “‘Collected Poems’: The Ironist of Nostalgia”. The New York Times.
[2] Wikipedia (2017) Donald Justice, Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Justice (Accessed: 12th August 2017).
[3]
Justice, D. (2017) Bus Stop Poem by Donald Justice, Available at: https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/bus-stop/ (Accessed: 12th August 2017).
 

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