Tom Sleigh
(USA, 1953)   
Tom Sleigh

Tom Sleigh is the author of more than half a dozen volumes of poetry. Space Walk (2007) won the 2008 Kingsley Tufts Award and earned Sleigh considerable critical acclaim. Referring to this collection, poet Philip Levine noted, “Sleigh’s reviewers use words such as ‘adept,’ ‘elegant,’ and ‘classical.’ Reading his new book, I find all those terms beside the point, even though not one is inaccurate. I am struck by the human dramas that are enacted in these poems, the deep encounters that often shatter the participants and occasionally restore them. What delights me most is seeing a poet of his accomplishments and his large and well-earned reputation suddenly veer into a new arena of both our daily and our mythical lives. For the writer, such daring may be its own reward; for the reader, it is thrilling to overhear a writer pushing into greatness.”

Bodies fertile as a field in April, swollen,   

trembling to be touched: and under the influences
of rains pouring down as if pure spirit poured

into us like rain, that thing called “soul”
sprouts and branches and entangles us

in lush bowers and thickets of illusion.
(from ‘Song That Can Only Be Sung Once’)

In discussing his influences, Sleigh lists “Browning for his technique; Wallace Stevens for a certain quality of gravitas, what Keats feels near his death, when he said he was living a sort of posthumous existence; Philip Larkin for his sense of extremity; Pound for his fluidity of conception and hardness of execution; Baudelaire for his music and intense scrutiny and affection for street life; and Bishop and Lowell for their immersion in the physical world.”

I could smell the corruption's
gathering, sweetish odor,
its sonar gone haywire
driving it to shore.
What choices are you given,   
what makes you want to swim   
out of your own element?

(from ‘Stranding’)

As a dramatist, Sleigh has written several critically acclaimed plays, a multimedia opera, and a full-length translation of Euripides’ Herakles (2001). His prose collection Interview with a Ghost (2006) includes both literary and personal essays.

Sleigh has taught at Dartmouth College, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, New York University, and Hunter College. Sleigh has also received the Shelley Award from the Poetry Society of America, an Individual Writer’s Award from the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, a Guggenheim grant, two National Endowment for the Arts grants, and an Academy Award from the Academy of American Poets.



Army Cats, Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2011
Space Walk, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY, 2007
Far Side of the Earth, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY, 2003
The Dreamhouse, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1999
The Chain, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1996
Waking, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1990
After One, Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, NY 1983

Prose works
Interview with a Ghost, Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, MN, 2006

Dramatic works
Ice Trucker Pilgrimage, a multi-media opera, presented at San Francisco Film Festival, 2006
The Knowledge and Conversation of My Holy Guardian Angel, or an Old-Fashioned Love Story, produced in 2004, New York Fringe Theater Festival
Rubber, performed at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, Raw Space Theater, New York City, 2002; winner of "Best of the Fest" award and a 2003 OOBR Award from the Off Off Broadway Review
Barbarosa, staged reading at Boston University's Playwright's Theater, 1998
Ahab's Wife, performed at Loeb's ART Institute, Boston, 1997; and Jim Henson Foundation's International Festival of Puppet Theater, New York City, 1998

Herakles by Euripides, Oxford University Press USA, New York, NY, 2000

AGNI online: Interview with Tom Sleigh Chant by Tom Sleigh (audio) Fable by Tom Sleigh (audio) Space Station by Tom Sleigh (audio) Poetry Off the Shelf: Tom Sleigh  (audio)
Poetry Magazine: Q&A: Tom Sleigh



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