Jean Valentine

August 14, 2012 Valentine Jean



The winter trees offer no shade no shelter.

They offer wood to the family of wood.


He comes in at the kitchen door, waving like a pistol

a living branch in his hand, he shouts

“Man your battle stations!”


Our mother turns to the kitchen curtains.

He shakes the branch, a house-size Great Dipper


points North over the yard:

Can it help?  How about


the old dog, thumping her tail.  Whose dog is she?

How about the old furnace, breathing.

Breathing the


world:  a flier, a diver,

kitchen curtains, veterans, God, listen kindness,

we’re in this thing like leaves.

On April 27, 1934, Jean Valentine was born in Chicago, Illinois. She received a BA from Radcliffe College in 1956 and has lived most of her life in New York City. In 1964, Valentine’s first book Dream Barker (Yale University Press, 1965) was chosen for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. She is the author of several poetry collections, including Shirt in Heaven (Copper Canyon Press, 2015); Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 2004), which won the National Book Award; and Home Deep Blue: New and Selected Poems (Alice James Books, 1989). She is also the editor of The Lighthouse Keeper: Essays on the Poetry of Eleanor Ross Taylor (Seneca Review, 2001).

Valentine has been awarded grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Bunting Institute. In 2000, she received the Shelley Memorial Prize from the Poetry Society of America. She is the recipient of the 2009 Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.