James Ragan is an award-winning poet, playwright, essayist, and screenwriter. Translated into 10 languages, he has authored 8 books of poetry including In the Talking Hours, Womb-Weary, The Hunger Wall, Lusions, Selected Poetry, The World Shouldering I, Too Long a Solitude, and co-editor of Yevgeny Yevtushenko, Collected Poems. He has read for six heads of state, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Vaclav Klaus and for audiences in China, Japan, England, France, Sweden, Brazil, and the Czech Republic, among others. In 1985, he was one of four poets, including Seamus Heaney, Robert Bly, and Bob Dylan, invited to perform at the First International Poetry Festival in Moscow. Raganís honors include three Fulbright Professorships, two Honorary Doctorates, the Emerson Poetry Prize, 8 Pushcart Prize nominations, a Poetry Society of America Citation and the Swan Foundation Humanitarian Award. Raganís plays, The Landlord and Commedia, have been staged in the U.S., China, Greece, and the Soviet Union. He has worked as a screenwriter at Paramount Pictures and later in various production capacities during the making of THE BORDER, THE HOUSE, and the Academy Award winners THE GODFATHER and THE DEER HUNTER. He has a Ph.D. and served for 25 years as the Director of USCís Professional Writing Program. In 1996, BUZZ Magazine named Ragan one of the ď100 Coolest People in Los Angeles: Those Who Make a DifferenceĒ.

James Raganís poems are satisfying and distinctive, full of arresting collocations and striking phrases. U.S. Poet Laureate, Richard Wilbur

James Ragan dominates the art of image, the art of poetic line, and the art of poetic narration with insight that marks major poets. Nobel Prize Nominee, Miroslav Holub


If For Each of Us

a rope could swing us
long and light across a widening trough
of all that fails us in our lives,
I would want to land upon the Isle of Echo,
lush with repetition, green with being
original in birth and twice the twin
a wave might dance along the skerry.
I would want a canyon tall for hawks to carry
long the deep tattoo of voices on the air.
I would want an ear to hear
what words to read again to memory,
what verse to carol, thoughts to root
before the sparrow’s flight the mind has taken
comes to rest on truth. I would want
to hear a vowel repeat in consonance
with alliteration’s frothy throat.
And should the landing fail its footing,
I would want to know what inspiration
in shorter flight one syllable might repeat
as in the swash the flat-stone makes
to skip across the light in water
or the voice a wind gives to birch and linden.
I would want the distance to all understanding
to narrow just enough to fail at failure.
I would want a melody of chances
to learn to love again what first I dreamed,
free as wonder, soft as touch,
and of all things simple
to care again for them as much.

Published in Poetry Magazine  

A Good Sky

I show you a good sky.
It could hold a fleet of geese
above a kite, sipping in a breeze,
or foliate the wind
with leaves of cherry wood
and hedge.

Look. It will blanket your sleep
with mirrors of stars
in the soft undressing of night.

It will love you, solely,
through the Venus dawn,
rubbing your eyes awake
a moment before the day’s
light hangs its spars.

I show you a good sky.
It will rain its reflection
on your one troubled eye,
the one that blinks
each time a hawk rants by.

I am no one’s romantic.
No. I am the sky’s shadow-wish
writing this only
to breathe its light.

I show you a falling sun,
passing like a lover,
to be near you, allowing
no star, no bulb on a corner lamp
to possess you as you are.

Look. Here I am, the sky’s moon
down. I will shave
a horizon out of peaks
like none your memory
has ever carved.

I show you a good sky,
its broad blue ribbon will wrap
its mind around your eyes’ imagination
and tease you into smiles— 
Now, be patient,
let your grieving rest awhile.

Rilke on the Conveyor Belt
       at Los Angeles International

A rick of pages, it falls hardly noticed
into motion, and down the track, unspined,
It cycles time between a rucksack and laundry.
A book no thicker than a wallet or a comb,
It is the unworthy carry-on, newly bought,

colliding with a carpetbag or steamer
on the unlikely navigation into being
where it’s not. Each passenger has watched it
circle more than once, a bold intrusion
into the archipelago of things familiar.

There is no fixed point of concentration,
no laughter, no elation when the eyes dissect
the slow descent of baggage into orbit
as if in taking up an armstrap, each handler
slews a body to the spars of his shoulder.

Had Rilke, himself, fallen unbound,
lying in united state, he would have passed
unnoticed by the baggage check or porter
who fail to think it odd or such a pity
to tag him at the lost and found.

How many miles had his words trespassed,
how many cities, alive, unread
among so many ports of authority, a gold leaf
of art so grand in the pall of memory
it gives the mind encouragement to survive.

Unless unsung like a soldier’s duffel, duty bound,
fear spreads its tarp along the spine of language.
Creation can end this way, abrupt and final,
like travel to the ends of the world
with no intent, or vision, but destination.

James Ragan

© 2011 James Ragan

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