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Ruth Lepson


Background: Born in New York in 1949; a year later we moved to Princeton, as my father got a post-doc in math at The Institute for Advanced Study. My mother, who lived in Lithuania until she was twenty, became a mathematician, too, and a sculptor, and later wrote (a still unpublished) book on math as an art form. My father had studied music at Julliard while getting his master's at Yale in math and physics. He played bassoon and conducted. Any spirituality that developed in me came from my maternal grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi, and I lived on my uncle's kibbutz for two summers, picking pears in '67 after the Six-Day War.

When my father got a job in Washington, DC, we moved to MD. While in high school, I took harmony and theory courses at UMD and studied privately with a composer, took singing lessons with Don Boothman, and wrote songs and rudimentary classical music. I directed the junior chorus in high school.

Then off to SUNY Stony Brook, which had the most adventurous poetry program around. During my first two years of college, at Stony Brook, I studied with Jim Harrison and George Quasha, after which I transferred to UPenn, where I finished my degree in English literature, filling in gaps with more traditional courses. After various adventures like hitching around the U.S., and jobs, I moved to Boston in 1971 to get a master's in creative writing at Boston University, studying with Anne Sexton, John Malcolm Brinnin, Alberto de Lacerda, and George Starbuck, and acting as teaching assistant to George Starbuck in his course Modern Metaphysical Poetry. Later, at Case Western Reserve, I fell into Myth and Religion of the Ancient Near East and came to love Inanna and other early myths.

The poets who stay with me are Creeley, Levertov, and other Black Mountain poets, The Objectivists, and Rich, and Yeats. Having traveled to St. Petersburg, I find myself returning to the Russians, and having visited Provence, I've been back to the French, and sitting in on a French conversation group, having lost most of my vocabulary.

After a few years in Cleveland and decades in Watertown, MA I bought a house in West Cambridge; it seems inevitable that I would move back here, where I lived in various apartments in the 70's.

My poems and prose have appeared in a great many journals over the years, notably Jacket2, Let the Bucket Down, Talisman, Harvard Review, EOAGH (where I'm now on the board), Big Bridge, Shampoo, Ping Pong, Ecopoetics, The Women’s Review of Books, Agni, Shuffle Boil and SpoKe. Recently I became a contributing editor to Charles River Review.

Most of the over 150 readings I've given have been in Massachusetts; to name a few venues: The Grolier Poetry Book Shop, Outpost, The BookCellar Cafe, and Lily Pad, in Cambridge; Peabody Essex Museum in Salem (with Eric Lane on keyboard and Derek Beckvold on saxophone); Gallery 119 in Lowell; Gloucester Writers Center; Andover Bookstore; Brookline Booksmith, the ICA, Suffolk University, Boston College, Studio Solo, Trident Booksellers, Waterstone's and Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore, in Boston; Regis College in Weston; Wheaton College in Norton; on Phone-a-Poem Boston; and at Wellfleet Public Library and other libraries around the state; and in New York/Brooklyn, for instance, The Bowery Poetry Club, La Mama, Unnameable Books, Goodbye Blue Monday (with Tim Davis on bass), Cornelia St. Cafe, and Douglass St. Studios.

But I've also read in St. Petersburg, Russia, at Ziferblat Saint-Petersburg Nevsky; Barcelona, at Sala Ramona; Portland, ME, at Raffles Bookstore; Washington, DC, at The Corner Store on Capital Hill and at Art-o-Matic, with the Malcolm X Dancers; Philadelphia, at a HIldegaard von Bingen conference, at the Marion Locks Gallery and elsewhere; New Haven, at the Ordinary Evening Reading Series, and on NPR's "All Things Considered."

I've had a few opportunities to improvise poetry with world class musicians, most recently at The Beehive, Boston Center for the Arts, with Nat Mugavero (drums), Jason Palmer (trumpet), and John Lockwood (bass); and musicians have often improvised to my poetry, for example, Hankus Netsky (piano), Linda Chase (flute), and Tupac Mantilla (percussion) at Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory.

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