An Excerpt from Not God After All by Gerald Stern

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Gerald Stern and Oliver Lake. Photo: Renee Rosensteel, 2014.

Often compared to Walt Whitman, Pittsburgh native Gerald Stern has captivated audiences for decades with his poetry. Throughout his full career, Stern has published 17 books of poetry and four essay collections, many of which have won or been nominated for prestigious awards, including the National Book Award, which he won in 1998. In addition to writing, Stern has a long career in teaching, with positions held at Temple University, New England College, and Drew University, as well as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

This is his second time performing at City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s Jazz Poetry Concert, where he first took the stage in 2008. This impressively talented poet holds many honors, including the Wallace Stevens Award, the Bess Hokin Prize, the Ruth Lilly Prize, the Bernard F. Conners Award from the Paris Review, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, as well as several fellowships. From 2000-2002 he was the first Poet Laureate of New Jersey.

I don’t know what the color
of the iris first was, blue?

           ■

For my immortality
I wear only purple socks.

           ■

Down with Rome, except for
Catullus, Ovid, etc.

           ■

Not one philosopher in
a thousand years, not one song.

           ■

A beaver eating loosestrife,
none of us could believe it.

           ■

It’s all about family, my
ass, it’s about money.

           ■

The sad thing is that when I
leave it will be the same thing.

           ■

I will be back with the
poison in less than an hour.

           ■

What is visible, what is
invisible, the same thing?

           ■

I’ll never forget him,
especially since we don’t speak.

           ■

The beaver was mine to begin
with (she should know, shouldn’t she?)

           ■

I’ll never forget Saul Bellow’s
camel-hair overcoat.

           ■

He played the clarinet with
twenty fingers on each hand.

           ■

On the whole I’d rather be
in Lambertville, New Jersey.

           ■

This excerpt is from Not God After All, a book of poetry written by Gerald Stern. It has been reprinted with permission from the publisher, Autumn House Press.

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