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The O:JA&L Masters Series
Prose Poetry: A Writer’s Portfolio

Featured Writer: Maxine Chernoff


To explore or download selected offerings from Maxine Chernoff,
click on the title DIARY (Including the essay “Love Affair with Prose Poetry”)
to access the latest chapbook in the O:JA&L Masters Series.

Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nimes by Robert Hubert

THE ROOF OF THE HOUSE once held it all in, talk at the table, whispers in bed. Rumors at night gathered in smoke-colored shadows, weeping in the wine cellar, whose thick walls cushioned the sound.  A hole in the attic made songbirds lay their eggs in woven nests in the rafters, where seasons changed, and trees budded in spring.  The sky was their candled chandelier.  No one visited for years. A weasel lived in the fireplace and mice overran the drawer still filled with candied fruit nuggets. The couple, who had bought the house when they were just starting their lives, had been gone since war made it unlivable.  They had fled on foot with few belongings to a quiet farmhouse deep in the woods. No one would think of them there, where they had grown older waiting for the war to end. With their bread and cheese and sprig of mint and spring water, they made little offerings to the local saint, the one who blesses those who’ve disappeared.


About the writer:
MAXINE CHERNOFF is the author of nineteen books of poems and six works of fiction. Her most recent book is Light and Clay: New and Selected Poems (2023), and her book of stories, Signs of Devotion, was a 1993 NYT Notable Book of the Year. A special issue of the Denver Quarterly (57:4) was recently devoted to her work, and a book about her work is forthcoming from MadHat Press in 2025. She is the recipient of a 2013 NEA in poetry and the 2009 PEN Translation Award for the work of Hölderlin, co-translated with Paul Hoover. In 2024 she was the keynote poet at the Louisville Conference, and in 2016 she was a visiting Writer at the American Academy in Rome. She also was a lecturer in poetry at Exeter University in England in 2013. She has read from her work in Brazil, Scotland, England, China, The Czech Republic, and Russia. Professor of Creative Writing at SFSU, she edited OINK! and NAW until 2013; the magazine continues under editor Paul Hoover and is published by MadHat Press.

Image: Interior of the Temple of Diana at Nimes by Hubert Robert (1733-1808). Oil on canvas. 95.2 x 95.2 inches. 1786. Public domain.

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