Linda Pastan

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Linda Pastan
reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 2014
reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 2014
Born (1932-05-27) May 27, 1932 (age 86)
New York
SpouseIra Pastan

Linda Pastan (born May 27, 1932 in New York) is an American poet of Jewish background. From 1991–1995 she was Poet Laureate of Maryland.[1] She is known for writing short poems that address topics like family life, domesticity, motherhood, the female experience, aging, death, loss and the fear of loss, as well as the fragility of life and relationships. Her most recent collections of poetry include Insomnia, Traveling Light, and A Dog Runs Through It.


Pastan has published 15 books of poetry and a number of essays. Her awards include the Dylan Thomas Award, a Pushcart Prize, the Alice Fay di Castagnola Award (Poetry Society of America), the Bess Hokin Prize (Poetry Magazine), the 1986 Maurice English Poetry Award (for A Fraction of Darkness),[2] the Charity Randall Citation of the International Poetry Forum, and the 2003 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. She also received the Radcliffe College Distinguished Alumnae Award.

Two of her collections of poems were nominated for the National Book Award and one for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.[3]


As of 2018, she lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband Ira Pastan, an accomplished physician and researcher.

She is the mother of novelist Rachel Pastan; Washington, D.C. chef and restaurateur Peter Pastan; and Atlanta nephrologist Stephen Pastan.[4]



  • A perfect circle of sun. Chicago: Swallow Press. 1971.
  • Aspects of Eve. New York: Liveright. 1975, ISBN 9780871401021
  • On the way to the zoo: poems, Illustrated by Raya Bodnarchuk, Dryad Press, 1975
  • Marks. 1978
  • The Five Stages of Grief. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1978
  • Setting the Table Dryad Press. 1980
  • Waiting For My Life. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1981, ISBN 9780393000498
  • PM / AM. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1982, ISBN 9780393300550
  • A Fraction of Darkness. New York: Norton, 1985 ISBN 9780393302516
  • The Imperfect Paradise. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988, ISBN 9780393025651
  • Heroes in Disguise. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1991, ISBN 9780393309225
  • An Early Afterlife. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1995, ISBN 9780393313819
  • Carnival Evening. New and Selected Poems: 1968 – 1998. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 1998, ISBN 9780393319279
  • The Last Uncle. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2001, ISBN 9780393325300
  • Queen of a Rainy Country: Poems. W. W. Norton & Co. 2006, ISBN 9780393331417
  • Traveling Light: Poems. W.W. Norton & Company. January 2011. ISBN 978-0-393-07907-4.
  • Insomnia: Poems. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2015. ISBN 9780393247183
  • A Dog Runs Through It. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2018. ISBN 9780393651300
List of poems
Title Year First published Reprinted/collected
First snow 2013 "First snow". The New Yorker. 89 (4): 68. March 11, 2013.

Settings of Poetry by Linda Pastan[edit]

The composer Garth Baxter has set a number of Ms. Pastan’s poems to music. His Three Poems by Linda Pastan (1995) consists of Self Portrait at 44, Marks and Caroline. Skywriting (2016) consists of the poems There are poems, Spring, The Imperfect Paradise and Why are your poems so dark? The title of the song cycle was chosen by Linda Pastan. His mini-cycle Two Last Songs (2016) begins with Pastan’s poem 1932.[5]

The Recording ASK THE MOON, Works for voice and piano by Garth Baxter, 2018, Navona Records, includes Skywriting and Two Last Songs. The title of the release is taken from the closing line of Pastan’s poem Why are your poems so dark?[6]

The recording Katherine Keem Sings Songs and Arias by Garth Baxter, 2014, Centaur Records, begins with the cycle Three Poems by Linda Pastan.[7]

Critical studies and reviews of Pastan's work[edit]

  • Franklin, Benjamin. 1981. "Theme and Structure in Linda Pastan's Poetry". In: Poet Lore. 75 (4). 234 – 241.
  • Mishkin, Tracy. 2004 "Aspects of Eve: The Garden of Eden in the Poetry of Linda Pastan". In: Behlau, Ulrike (ed.), Reitz, Bernhard (ed.). Jewish Women's Writing of the 1990s and Beyond. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag. 95 – 103.
  • "Whatever is at Hand. A Conversation with Linda Pastan". 1989. In: Ingersoll, Earl (ed.), Kitchen, Judith (ed.), Rubin, Stan (ed.). The Post-Confessionals: Conversations with American Poets of the Eighties. New York: Associated University Press. 135 – 149.


External links[edit]

External media
Linda Pastan reads "why are your poems so dark?" from the book Queen of a Rainy Country (via
Interview with Linda Pastan. Brown, Jeffrey. 2003. "Conversation: Pastan". In: The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. (7 July 2003). Online NewsHour.
Poetry Reading by Linda Pastan at the 10th Beall Poetry Festival, Baylor University, Waco, Texas (2 April 2004).
Beall Poetry Festival: Panel including Denis Donoghue, Galway Kinnell and Linda Pastan, Baylor University, Waco, Texas (3 April 2004).
Poetry Reading by Linda Pastan at the National Book Festival 2004, Washington D.C. (October 2004).