College of Arts and Sciences

Richard Siken

Richard Siken, Fall 2007

Our Fall 2007 Fred Case & Lola Austin Case Writer-In-Residence was Richard Siken, who visited Nov. 12-16. See News Release.

  • Public reading: Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007, 7:00 pm, WIU Art Gallery.
  • Question and answer session: Wed., Nov. 14, 2007, 4:30 pm, Simpkins 027.


"His territory is the passionate apex of an affair, where ripeness first tips toward rot...
Best of all are the poems where Siken’s passion and eloquence collide and fuse."

—Joel Brouwer, New York Times Book Review

Winner of the 2005 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition

The winner of the 2005 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is Richard Siken’s Crush, chosen by competition judge and past poet laureate Louise Glück. This is Glück’s second selection in her tenure as the first female poet to become judge of the competition.

In this provocative collection, Richard Siken offers the reader poems driven by obsession and brimming with violent eroticism. In her Foreword, Glück writes: “If panic is his ground note, Siken’s obsessive focus is a tyrant, the body. His title, Crush, suggests as much. . . . The risk of obsessive material is that it may get boring, repetitious, predictable, shrill. And the triumph of Crush it that it writes and blazes while at the same time holding the reader utterly: ‘sustaining interest’ seems far too mild a term for this effect. What holds is sheer art, despite the apparent abandon.”

Richard Siken was born in New York City. He received an MFA in poetry from the University of Arizona and lives in Tucson. He is founder of the literary magazine spork, and his poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Conjunctions, Indiana Review, and Chelsea. C. D.Wright chose Crush in 2003 as a finalist in the Academy of American Poets Walt Whitman Award. Siken is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts grant, a Pushcart Prize, and a Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2005.

Since its inception in 1919, the Yale Series of Younger Poets has published first collections of works by such poets as Muriel Rukeyser, Adrienne Rich, Auden, Stanley Kunitz, James Merrill and James Dickey. The Series is the longest-running poetry prize in America, and is open to any American under age 40 who has not yet published a book of poetry.

“Saying Your Name”

Names called out across the water,
names I called you behind your back,
sour and delicious, secret and unrepeatable,
the names of flowers that open only once,
shouted from balconies, shouted from rooftops,
or muffled by pillows, or whispered in sleep,
or caught in the throat like a lump of meat.
I try, I do. I try and try. A happy ending?
Sure enough—hello darling, welcome home.
I’ll call you darling, hold you tight. We are
not traitors but the lights go out. It’s dark.
Sweetheart, is that you? There are no tears,
no pictures of him squarely. A seaside framed
in glass, and boats, those little boats with
sails aflutter, shining lights upon the water,
lights that splinter when they hit the pier.

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