Poet Rae Armantrout arranges words to create art.  Methodically she researches language and picks the most interesting words by using them as a source of inspiration.  Armantrout is part of a group known as “language poets.”  Located mostly in New York City and San Francisco, they were greatly impacted by the Vietnam War.  The group took note of how the war was sold by “spin” and how language was being used as a tool.

Most “language poets” write in sections and according to Armantrout “…so that it can be subtle and seen in different ways.”  She brings together words that usually don’t belong together, together.  Armantrout likes the friction that language can create socially, aesthetically, or on paper.

Feelings or current thoughts inspire Armantrout’s writing.  Her recent book Money Shot contains poetry based on the financial crisis and battle with a rare cancer.  Armantrout doesn’t censor out personal narrative in her poetry.  For example, she’ll mix in personal narrative from sex to credit default swaps.  According to “Part of the first generation of Language poets on the West Coast, her work has been praised for syntax that borders on everyday speech while grappling with questions of deception and distortion in both language and consciousness.”

Rae Armantrout’s bio exudes the California experience.  She was born in Vallejo, grew up in San Diego, and attended the University of Berkeley, and San Francisco State University.  In 2010, Armantrout won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Armantrout on her childhood: “I was alone a lot when I was growing up.  I was an only child and there was alcoholism in my family so I often wanted to stay out of the way.  I think that has affected my work in a couple of ways.  First, I tended to entertain myself by reading and writing.  And then, of course, I was a lonely child.”  Lucky for us, her words get the attention and time they deserve.


The point is to see through
the dying,

who pinch non-existent
objects from the air


to this season’s
laying on of
withered leaves?


A moment is everything

one person

(see below)

takes in simultaneously

though some

or much of what

a creature feels

may not reach

conscious awareness

and only a small part

(or none) of this

will be carried forward

to the next instant.


Any one
not seconded

burns up in rage.

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