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Lawrence Raab

Lawrence Raab is the author of six collections of poetry, including The Probable World (Penguin, 2000), What We Don’t Know About Each Other (Penguin, 1993), a winner of the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the National Book Award, and Visible Signs: New and Selected Poems (Penguin, 2003). He has also published a chapbook of collaborative poems with Stephen Dunn, Winter at the Caspian Sea (Palanquin Press, 1999). His poems have appeared in several editions of The Best American Poetry, in Czeslaw Milosz’s A Book of Luminous Things, and in Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems. He teaches literature and writing at Williams College.


Daily Life

Winter 1994 | Poetry

We knew the rat in the crawlspace
was chewing on something essential.
But who'd go down to set the traps?
The house was ours—wasn't it my duty
to protect it?

The Uses of Nostalgia

Winter 1994 | Poetry

Twenty years ago there was a life for each of us
to turn away from
or embrace. A song returns to remind me
of what I must have felt,
and when it's over, I play it back again.

Ghost Stories

Autumn 1990 | Poetry

Out of a patch of fog, or the branches
of a broken tree, or as a light
suddenly aglow on the ceiling—
they assemble themselves, and briefly appear.

Something Sensible About Desire

Autumn 1990 | Poetry

If we agree that the truth is never
  only what we want to believe,
the urgent arguments of desire

still have the body's weight behind them,
 the weight of the bully who tells you
what to say and then makes sure you mean it.

A Night’s Museum

Autumn 1977 | Poetry

William Blake saw an angel
sitting in a tree. Blondin crossed Niagara
on a cable. And Maria Taglioni
for a Russian highwayman
danced on a panther's skin spread over the snow
in 1855.

The Invisible Hand

Winter 2003 | Poetry

No, I just can't write today, I said
to myself, sprawling on the couch, my mind
an open invitation to sleep, when there it was:
The Invisible Hand. A title. Having arrived
unbidden, it felt like inspiration,


Winter 2003 | Poetry

The poem that argues successfully against death
finds its place in the book you can buy
in stores that do not sell poetry.


Summer 1999 | Poetry

I can't remember how old I was,
but I used to stand in front
of the bathroom mirror, trying to imagine
what it would be like to be dead.

The Night Sky

Summer 1999 | Poetry

In the book you've been reading
it's the end of the season.
The shades have been drawn
in that house by the lake,

and a woman is standing
alone on the porch. 

Big Ideas

Summer 1999 | Poetry

I read the papers and think about hatred:
and the way ideas, especially big ideas,
look more and more like excuses for hatred.