Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett (born June 17, 1942, Tulsa, Oklahoma) is an American poet, essayist, fiction writer, translator, and a member of the New York School. Bean Spasms, Padgett's first collection of poems, was published in 1967 and written with Ted Berrigan.[1] He won a 2009 Shelley Memorial Award.[2] In 2018, he won a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America.[3]

Ron Padgett
Born (1942-06-17) June 17, 1942 (age 78)
Tulsa, Oklahoma
Occupationpoet, writer
EducationColumbia University, 1964
Notable worksBean Spasms

Early life and educationEdit

Padgett’s father was a bootlegger in Tulsa, Oklahoma.[4] He influenced many of Padgett's works, particularly the writer's refusal to obey rules, follow instructions, or even to follow his own emerging patterns.[4] This would later be described as a stubborn streak of boyishness, allowing a wry, pickled innocence in his poetry.[5]

By the age of 13, Padgett started writing poetry.[6] In an interview, the poet said that he was inspired to write when a girl he had a big crush on did not return his affection.[7] In high school, Padgett became interested in visual arts while continuing to write poetry. He befriended Joe Brainard, who also became a leading poet but was focusing on visual arts at that time.[8] They co-founded the avant-garde literary journal The White Dove Review. Collaborating with fellow Central High students Dick Gallup and Joe Brainard, along with University of Tulsa (TU) student-poet Ted Berrigan, Padgett solicited work for the White Dove from Black Mountain and Beat Movement writers such as Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, LeRoi Jones, E. E. Cummings, and Malcolm Cowley. Notably, The White Dove Review printed "The Thrashing Doves" by Jack Kerouac, "My Sad Self (for Frank O'Hara)" by Allen Ginsberg, "Crap and Cauliflower" by Carl Larsen, and "Redhead" by Paul Blackburn, among many others. After five issues, Padgett and his fellow editors retired the White Dove.

In 1960, Padgett left Tulsa for New York, having been drawn to the New York School,[9][10] a term said to be coined as a brand name for the first generation poets Frank O'Hara, Barbara Guest, John Ashbery and Kenneth Koch.[11] During this period, he was interested in Pound, Rimbaud, the Black Mountain poets, and the Beats.[8] In the same year, Padgett studied at Columbia University,[6] where he earned a B.A. in 1964. In an interview, Padgett said that he went to Columbia partly because Ginsberg and Kerouac had gone there.[8] He then studied creative writing at Wagner College with Kay Boyle, Howard Nemerov, and Koch. He was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship[12] and studied 20th-century French literature in Paris from 1965 to 1966.


Padgett was a poetry workshop instructor at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery, New York, NY, from 1968 to 1969 and a poet in various New York City Poets in the Schools programs from 1969 to 1976. He was director of publications for Teachers & Writers Collaborative[13] from around 1982 to 1999. He was also editor of Teachers & Writers Magazine from 1980 to 2000.

Padgett was a cofounder and publisher of Full Court Press, for whom he edited from 1973 to 1988. He has lectured at educational institutions, including Atlantic Center for the Arts and Columbia University. He has also been the host of a poetry radio series and the designer of computer writing games.


Padgett is the author of over twenty poetry collections, including Great Balls of Fire (1969, reissued 1990); You Never Know (2001); How to Be Perfect (2007); How Long (2011); and Collected Poems (2013). Several of Padgett's poems, including two written expressly for the film, are featured in the 2016 film Paterson,[14] which is about a poet named Paterson who lives in Paterson, N.J. The film's director, Jim Jarmusch, is a friend of Padgett. Like Padgett, Jarmusch studied poetry under Kenneth Koch at Columbia University.[15]

Padgett has collaborated with the poet Ted Berrigan and the artists Jim Dine and George Schneeman. He has also taught poetry writing to children.[16]

Other worksEdit

Padgett is also the author of several collections of prose, including Blood Work: Selected Prose (1993), Ted: A Personal Memoir of Ted Berrigan (1993), and The Straight Line: Writing on Poetry and Poets (2000).[13] His works on education and writing include The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms (editor), The Teachers & Writers Guide to Walt Whitman (editor), Educating the Imagination (co-editor), and many others. He was also the editor of the three-volume book called World Poets (2000).[1]

Padgett also translated French texts such as those written by authors Blaise Cendrars and Guillaume Apollinaire.[13]

Awards and honorsEdit

In 1996, he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.[17] His book How Long was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012[18] and his Collected Poems won the L.A. Times Book Prize in 2013.[19] He was also the recipient of grants and awards for his translations, which include those given by the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, and Columbia University’s Translation Center.[1]

Personal lifeEdit

Padgett and his wife, Patricia Padgett, who also grew up in Tulsa, live in the same East Village railroad flat into which he moved in 1967.[15] They also have a home in northern Vermont where they spend their summers.[16] The couple's son Wayne was born in 1967.[16]


  • Summer Balloons (Tulsa, Oklahoma) 1960.
  • In Advance of the Broken Arm, "C" Press (New York, NY), 1964.
  • Some Things, (With Ted Berrigan and Joe Brainard) (New York, NY) "C" Press, 1964.
  • Two Stories for Andy Warhol, "C" Press (New York, NY), 1965.
  • Sky, Goliard Press (London, UK), 1966.
  • Bean Spasms: Poems and Prose, (With Ted Berrigan) Kulcher Press (New York, NY), 1967.
  • Tone Arm, Once Press, 1967.
  • 100,000 Fleeing Hilda, (With Joe Brainard) Boke, 1967.
  • Bun, (With Tom Clark) Angel Hair Books (New York, NY), 1968.
  • Great Balls of Fire. New York, NY: Holt. 1969. Ron Padgett.; reprint, revised Coffee House Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-918273-80-2
  • The Adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Jim and Ron, (With Jim Dine) Cape Gouliard Press (London, England), 1970.
  • Antlers in the Treetops (with Tom Veitch) Coach House Press (Toronto, Canada), 1970.
  • Sweet Pea, Aloes, 1971.
  • Poetry Collection, Strange Faeces Press (London, England), 1971.
  • Sufferin' Succotash (With Joe Brainard) (bound with Kiss My Ass by Michael Brownstein), Adventures in Poetry, 1971.
  • Back in Boston Again, (With Ted Berrigan and Tom Clark) Telegraph, 1972.
  • Oo La La, (With Jim Dine) Petersburg Press (New York, NY), 1973.
  • Crazy Compositions, Big Sky (Southampton, NY), 1974.
  • The World of Leon, (With others) Big Sky (Southampton, NY), 1974.
  • Toujours l'amour, SUN (New York, NY), 1976.
  • Pullman, Arrive (With George Schneeman) Generations (Paris, France), 1978.
  • Tulsa Kid, Z Press (Calais, VT), 1979.
  • Triangles in the Afternoon, SUN (New York, NY), 1980.
  • How to Be a Woodpecker, (With T. Winkfield) Toothpaste Press (West Branch, IA), 1983.
  • Light as Air, (With Alex Katz) Pace Editions (New York, NY), 1988.
  • The big something. Geoffrey Young. 1989. ISBN 978-0-935724-38-7.
  • New and Selected Poems, David Godine (Boston, MA), 1995.
  • You Never Know. Minneapolis, MN: Coffee House Press. 2001. ISBN 978-1-56689-128-8.
  • How to be perfect. Coffee House Press. 2007. ISBN 978-1-56689-203-2.
  • How Long, Coffee House Press, 2011 ISBN 978-1-56689-256-8
  • Collected Poems, Coffee House Press, 2013
  • Alone and Not Alone, Coffee House Press, 2015
  • Big Cabin, Coffee House Press, 2019




  1. ^ a b c "Ron Padgett",
  2. ^ "About the Author: Ron Padgett," Coffee House Press. Accessed May 31, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Frost Medalists - Poetry Society of America". Retrieved 2018-10-23.
  4. ^ a b ""'It's alright, students, not to write': What Ron Padgett's Poetry Can Teach Us," by Jeremy Over, Writing In Education 71 (2017)". A Collective History of American Poetry and Poetics. 2017-03-13. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  5. ^ Gordinier, Jeff (2015-07-08). "Review: Looking Inward in Poetry Books From Ron Padgett and Nick Flynn". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  6. ^ a b Good Poems for Hard Times. Penguin. 2006-08-29. ISBN 9781440684494.
  7. ^ Lopez, Natalina (2016-12-29). "Meet the Poet Behind Adam Driver's New Film 'Paterson'". Town & Country. Retrieved 2019-09-07.
  8. ^ a b c "An Interview with Poet Ron Padgett". Believer Magazine. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  9. ^ Kline, Joshua. The White Dove Review: How a Group of Tulsa Teens Created a Literary Legend This Land Press (2010).
  10. ^ "Ron Padgett: Winner of the 2009 Shelley Memorial Award," Poetry Society of America website. Accessed May 31, 2014.
  11. ^ Meyer, Eugene (2017-07-06). "The Poet Laureate of Paterson". Columbia College Today. Retrieved 2019-09-06.
  12. ^ "Padgett, Ron 1942- |". Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  13. ^ a b c Foundation, Poetry (2019-08-26). "Ron Padgett". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2019-08-26.
  14. ^ Lopez, N., "Meet the Poet Behind Adam Driver's New Film Paterson", Town & Country, Dec 29, 2016.
  15. ^ a b "How the Poet Ron Padgett Spends His Sundays". The New York Times. 2017-01-26. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  16. ^ a b c "Ron Padgett Biography". Retrieved 2019-09-06.
  17. ^ "Grant Recipients :: Foundation for Contemporary Arts". Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  18. ^ Jollimore, Troy (April 17, 2012). "Book World: Tracy K. Smith's 2012 Pulitzer-winning poems are worth a read". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-08-21.
  19. ^ "2013 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Winners Announced". Los Angeles Times. 2014-04-11. Retrieved 2019-08-20.
  20. ^ Carolyn Kellogg (April 11, 2014). "Jacket Copy: The winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes are ..." LA Times. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  21. ^ "Robert Creeley Foundation » Award – Robert Creeley Award". Retrieved 2018-03-22.

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