David Ray

David RayDavid Ray has published widely and has won numerous honors and awards for his poetry, fiction and essays, including the William Carlos Williams Prize from the Poetry Society of America, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, the Richard Snyder Memorial Award, and The Nuclear Age Foundation Poetry Prize.

Poems by Ray have been featured in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac.

Books by David Ray for  the Backwaters Press

Music of Time: Selected and New Poems Music of Time by David Ray

Author: David Ray
Format: Paperback, 364 pages
ISBN: 0978578244
Published: December 2006

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Critical Praise for Ray David

It is fitting that David Ray has twice been given an award named for William Carlos Williams. Though Ray is quite capable of a sestina or a long haiku sequence, his poems are not conspicuously technical, but like Williams’ are powered by the urgent speech of a man with something to say. In this ample selection, poem after poem is a truly fresh occasion, and some of that variety is owing, I think, to an admirable honesty and recklessness of feeling. If I were to name my favorites in this excellent book, I would start with “Hansel and Gretel Return,” and the list would be very long. “Readable” is a term of praise commonly reserved for novels, but anyone who picks up Music of Time will find it blessedly so.
Richard Wilbur – Recipient of two Pulitzer and two Bollingen Prizes

The whole career of David Ray confirms a distinctive risk-taking aesthetic that will not let him be silent. Ray has, through his art, through his daily struggle as an artist with image, sound, and word, overcome the fear of self-revelation, and also expanded our sense of the human through his empathy for diverse histories.
Amritjit Singh – Langston Hughes Professor of English, Ohio University, Athens

David Ray’s poetry has always been radiant even though personal tragedy has suffused it.
Studs Terkel – Recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Humanities Medal

David Ray remains among the best half-dozen poets in the English language today.
Chinua Achebe – Awarded the Commonwealth Poetry Prize and the Nigerian National Order of Merit

Review of Music of Time: Selected and New Poems in the Tucson Weekly.

The page for Music of Time: Selected and New Poems at the author’s website.

Poems from David Ray’s Music of Time: Selected and New Poems

On Reading That Napoleon Was Poisoned

Science has pinned
Napoleon down
At last

Those final days
On St. Helena
The walks, the sea

And those who worried
Scanned Europe
Thought they’d better

Take steps, science
Now confirms, neutron
Analysis shows

From the clipped
Hair of the little

That he was poisoned
Over a period of time

In his soup
They thought it
Clever, covered up

Wiped off the slates
Of history but
Hair takes into itself

11 stories, a man’s
Aspirin, his

And you can be
Tested in a hundred

And they will know
When you turned

To me
Love shot
Through your long hair

Kafka’s Father

He was “luminous with cunning,”
Kafka wrote of his father,
thinly disguised in fiction –

a gigantic man, a tyrant
long feared, the boss and bully
who turned dreams to terror.

But at last this feared father
seemed weak and in need,
and the son rushed to help,

willing to forgive all betrayals
and decades of humiliations.
But doomed are such gestures.

With his last breath a man
can torture his son, find ways
to leave him bleeding forever,

afflicted with doubt and perplexity.
He invents another son in order
to say he elsewhere offers his love,

what had been due to poor Franz.
In no time at all the old man
invented a dozen new lies,

could not leave life until sure
the son has been soundly defeated,
can never recover. “Your friends

do not read your letters,” he says,
“they send them to me unopened
and I laugh at them and shred them

into the fire. You have not one
friend in the world and your girl
is a whore. I myself have slept

with her. And what you call
your art is a farce. You could never
succeed in business, not even one

where others are doing the work.”
The tyrant on his death bed inflicts
wounds that can never be healed.

With dying breath he cries out,
“I hereby sentence you to die
by drowning. That is my decision.”

The father falls back in bed,
his life’s task fulfilled, and the son
rushes right out to the river,

hurls himself over the rail
into the waters dark and swift.
Yet, had he survived the night

of his father’s death he might
now and then have imagined
a ghost gentled and teasing

who with a sly glance still seems
to offer a crumb of affection
as do so many of our fathers.

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