Jean Valentine


Jean Valentine was born in Chicago and earned her BA from Radcliffe College. Her first book of poems, Dream Barker and Other Poems, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1965. She authored of over a dozen collections of poetry, including The River at Wolf (1992); Little Boat (2007);  Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965–2003, which won the National Book Award; Break the Glass (2010), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Shirt in Heaven (2015). Her lyric poems delve into dream lives with glimpses of the personal and political. In addition to writing her own poems, she also translated work by the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam. A longtime resident of New York City, Valentine served as the State Poet of New York from 2008 to 2010. She taught at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and the 92nd Street Y in New York. She was awarded a Bunting Institute Fellowship, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the Shelley Memorial Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, and the 2017 Bollingen Prize for American Poetry. Valentine died on December 29, 2020. Source

You ask,

Could we have coffee? -No, my truth

I’m still on this side.

I saw you last night, again,


at the bar on 57th,

O faceless dancer,

and I put down my mask


I wanted you to touch me

You stood there neither man nor woman,

beautiful edge by the water





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Love & Relationships

Literary Devices:


an exclamatory passage in a speech or poem addressed to a person (typically one who is dead or absent) or thing (typically one that is personified)


a figure of speech wherein a writer raises a question and then immediately answers it


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


A stanza of three lines of verse that rhyme together or are connected by rhyme with an adjacent stanza.