Marie Ponsot was an American poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator. Her awards and honors included the National Book Critics Circle Award, Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, the Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.
In her honor, Presence published a Life's Work essay in the inaugural issue of 2017, written by Susan L. Miller, for whom Ponsot had been a beloved teacher and mentor.
Dancing Day II
Once, one made many.
Now, many make one.
The rest is requiem.
We're running out of time, so
we're hurrying home to
gether for the general dance.
We're past get-ready, almost at get-set.
Here we come many to
dance as one.
Plenty more lost selves keep arriving, some
we weren't waiting for. We stretch and
lace up practice shoes. We mind our manners—
no staring, just snatching a look
—strict and summative—
at each other's feet & gait & port.
Every one we ever were shows up
with world-flung poor triumphs
flat in the backpacks we set down to greet
each other. Glad tired gaudy
we are more than we thought
& as ready as we'll ever be.
We've all learned the moves, separately,
from the absolute dancer
the foregone deep breather
the original choreographer.
Imitation's limitation—but who cares.
We'll be at our best on dancing day.
On dancing day
we'll belt out tunes we'll step to
till it's time for us to say
there's nothing more to say
nothing to pay no way
pay no mind pay no heed
pay as we go.
Many is one; we're out of here,
exit oh and save
this last dance for me
on the darkening ground
looking up into
the last hour of left light
in the star-struck east,
its vanishing flective, bent
from Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2016)