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The Tomb of the Unknown Poet

May. 4, 2014
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Why no Tomb of the Unknown Poet?

Wasn't he killed as sure as the Unknown


Didn't he die running wild after

the wildest beauty the same

as Wilfred Owen?

Didn't he step on the toes of landmine


Wasn't he mowed down by machine-guns

of mechanization?

Didn't he throw himself on the grenade

of scorn lobbed at Poetry?

Drape a green flag of living grass

over his casket.

Blow his taps on panpipes:

phoenix syrinx!

Unknown Poet launched into the Unknown

like a poem in a manila envelope

addressed to Immortality

Care of the worms who edit scrupulously

but send no rejection slips.




Jeff Poniewaz taught "Literature of Ecological Vision” via UW-Milwaukee from 1989 to 2009. He also taught a course called “Whitman & Ginsberg: Liberating American Bards.” Ginsberg praised Jeff’s work for its "Whitmanesque/Thoreauvian verve and wit." His poems have appeared in many periodicals and anthologies. His book Dolphin Leaping in the Milky Way won him a 1987 PEN "Discovery Award." Lawrence Ferlinghetti called Jeff’s epic “September 11, 2001,” written during the closing months of 2001, “the best poem I’ve seen on 9/11.” Excerpts from it were published in September 11, 2001: American Writers Respond; An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind—Poets on 9/11; Van Gogh’s Ear out of Paris, France; and as a chapbook titled September 11, 2001. His other chapbooks include Whales Hover Over the Freeway (2007) and Polish for Because—Meditations of a Former St. Josaphat Altar Boy (2008). A volume of his Selected Poems written since 1965 is on the near horizon.  He was chosen Milwaukee Poet Laureate in March 2013. His last name is pronounced POE-nYEAH-vAHsh and is Polish for "because." On Saturday, May 10th at 7pm at Woodland Pattern, Poniewaz will be reading with David Cope as part of the Milwaukee Poets Laureate Reading Series.


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