Platt, Donald 1957-

views updated

Platt, Donald 1957-


Born July 22, 1957; married Dana Roeser (a poet); children: two daughters. Education: University of Utah, Ph.D., 1995.


Office—Department of English, Purdue University, 500 Oval Dr., West Lafayette, IN 47907-2038; fax: (765) 494-3780. E-mail—[email protected].


Poet, writer, and educator. Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, began as associate professor, became professor of English.


National Endowment for the Arts fellowship; Paumanok Poetry Prize; "Discovery" The Nation Prize; Verna Emery Poetry Prize (two), for Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns and Cloud Atlas; Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize.



Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 1994.

Leap Second at the Turn of the Millennium (limited-edition chapbook), Center for Book Arts (New York, NY), 1999.

Cloud Atlas, Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 2002.

My Father Says Grace: Poems, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 2007.

Contributor to books, including Best American Poetry 2000; The Pushcart Prize XXVII, 2003; The Pushcart Prize XXIX, 2005; and Best American Poetry 2006. Contributor to periodicals, including the New Republic, Nation, Paris Review, Poetry, Kenyon Review, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Southern Review.


Donald Platt is a poet whose work has been called "full of vitality and emotion" by a contributor to Publishers Weekly. In a "self-interview" published on the University of Arkansas Press Web site, the author comments that he considers two people in his family as his muses: his brother, who has Down syndrome, and his father after he developed Alzheimer's disease. "Growing up with a ‘retarded’ brother in a family that never talked about his disability affected me profoundly," the author writes. "Sibling rivalry, guilt, grief, and pity got all mixed together. I felt I had to compensate for his inability to speak. You might look at the poem "Ash Wednesday" to get one version of this conflicted identification. Of course, when my father developed Alzheimer's and had a debilitating stroke, he also became a mute muse as he approached my brother's state of being ‘out of mind,’ meaning of limited mental capacities but also forgotten by most of society."

In his first full-length book of poems, Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, the author explores the dissonance of his own and other peoples' lives. The poems describe a wide range of experiences. In one poem, an insomniac poet wakes up at four o'clock in the morning and browses the radio stations featuring various musical genres. Another focuses on a retarded brother learning to speak. Platt also writes of browsing the Gideon Bible in a cheap motel, recalls a grandmother's quilts, and effuses over springtime in Virginia. In the title poem, he recounts stopping at a roadside stand. As quoted in the Nation, the author writes: "Mozart once said that he wrote music / by finding the notes / that love one another and putting them / together. But remembering how / the dissonant opening bars of his string quartet / in C major grate / against each other and yet somehow cohere, / I like to think / he found a different kind of order, / the same principle / of musical composition that inspired the roadside sign / I saw on Rt. 29: / Fresh Peaches, Fireworks, & Guns." A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that in the collection Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, the author finds that "nothing is too insignificant to be revered."

In his third book, My Father Says Grace: Poems, the author focuses primarily on issues of human struggles in life with an emphasis on his own experiences, from a father who has a stroke and dementia, to his mother-in-law's cancer. Once again, he also writes of his brother with Down syndrome. Although the author writes about trying experiences and conditions, a contributor to the Internet Bookwatch pointed out that his viewpoint is not dour, noting that Platt's "deftly crafted free verse poetry is rooted in an ultimate but clear-headed optimism." In the title poem, when his father tries to say grace but comes out only with gibberish, the author imagines what he might be trying to say and writes lines such as "Praise be / to the salt / in its shaker for it brings out the truest taste of whatever / we eat." The Internet Bookwatch contributor called the collection of poetry "a remarkable body of work and strongly recommended reading." Patricia Monaghan, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "captures the way ordinary life both confines and frees us."

Although Platt often writes about personal matters, he also addresses political and social issues in his poems. In his self interview on the University of Arkansas Press Web site, the author states that one must avoid a didactic approach when writing about issues such as racism and human sexuality, and notes that the poet must look for a "fresh angle" and "the concrete subject that will illuminate."



Platt, Donald, Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 1994.

Platt, Donald, Cloud Atlas, Purdue University Press (West Lafayette, IN), 2002.

Platt, Donald, My Father Says Grace: Poems, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 2007.


Booklist, March 15, 2007, Patricia Monaghan, review of My Father Says Grace, p. 15.

Georgia Review, spring, 2005, review of poems "My Father Says Grace" and "Ash Wednesday," pp. 123-128.

Internet Bookwatch, September, 2007, review of My Father Says Grace.

Kenyon Review, summer-fall, 1996, David Baker, review of Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, p. 191.

Nation, May 18, 1992, Donald Platt, "Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns," p. 670.

Paris Review, fall, 2001, Donald Platt, "Cloud Atlas," p. 231.

Publishers Weekly, March 28, 1994, review of Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, p. 89.

Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1995, review of Fresh Peaches, Fireworks & Guns, p. 29.


Midwest Book Review, (December 4, 2007), review of My Father Says Grace.

Poetry Daily, (September 3, 2007), brief profile of author.

Purdue University, Department of English Web site, (December 4, 2007), faculty profile of author.

University of Arkansas Press Web site, (December 4, 2007), brief profile of author; Donald Platt, "Say What?," self-interview by author.

About this article

Platt, Donald 1957-

Updated About content Print Article