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David Caplan

David Caplan is the author of four books of poetry criticism and poetry, most recently Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture (Oxford, 2014). The Charles M. Weis Chair in English at Ohio Wesleyan University, he serves as a contributing editor to VQR and received the Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry.



May 21, 2015 | Poetry

A steeple repainted with a Star of David,the street still named for a saint— I don’t remember half the prayers I’ve said, even saying them, the words I mumbled, quoting God, distracted by the person beside me,swaying into his prayer [...]

Poetry Poster #7: David Caplan

August 10, 2012 | Poetry

This week’s poem, “God Knows English” by David Caplan, is complemented by a photograph by Noah Rabinowitz. The poem and photo are part of a series by Caplan called “Observances,” which appeared in our Spring 2012 issue on the state of American Poetry.


Spring 2012 | Poetry

Like scribes, they lean closer, watching
the old men he blessed for long life stand and listen.


Alien Fire

Spring 2012 | Poetry

Late Saturday afternoon, late winter,
they sway and clap, not wanting

to let the chorus go, and when their teacher asks,
What are you, dead?


Nittel Nacht

Spring 2012 | Poetry

Crucifixes crowbarred from the apses
left their shadows, faint or imagined:
a false translation, like the Bibles

missionaries stacked along the driveway.



Spring 2012 | Poetry

The need to be heard does not change,
the need to get close. Again we tear
our request, scatter it across the grave.


American Poetry and Poetry Criticism Now

Spring 2012 | Essays

The American poetry scene has not gone back to the days of the midcentury generation—nor should it. It also largely avoids the least attractive development that claimed the intervening years, when the ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry returned as farce.

Into My Garden

Spring 2012 | Poetry

As if new Jersey were Babylon, an Argentine
and an Israeli argue in Aramaic, Styrofoam cups
of instant coffee warm in their hands,


Masters of Return

Summer 2009 | Essays

Unlike the men there, I wore a yarmulke. I explained my situation to the waiter behind the counter, asking if I could take a bottle of water and pay him back the next day. He firmly said no.

White Stone

Summer 2009 | Poetry

Garlands of trinitarias shade an artist’s studio,
plainer than their synagogue halfway down the hill,
its ceiling painted with stars, a glass chandelier.


Whitman in Liège

Spring 2005 | Essays

While the American military conducted a war promoted in metaphysical terms—“a war against terror”—two occasions invited self-reflection. An election approached, followed by a date of more specialized interest: the 150th anniversary of Leaves of Grass.

“In That Thicket of Bitter Roots”: The Ghazal in America

Fall 2004 | Essays

Contemporary metrical verse surprises many learned readers simply by existing. For all the reasons that Paul Fussell summarizes and for a great number more, much of the liveliest recent scholarship concludes that literary and cultural history dooms this poetry to failure, irrelevance, or political and aesthetic conservatism.