Purpura, Lia 1964- (Lia Rachel Purpura)

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Purpura, Lia 1964- (Lia Rachel Purpura)


Born February 22, 1964, in Mineola, Long Island, NY; daughter of John (an artist and teacher) and Maddelena (an artist and teacher) Purpura; married Jed Gaylin (a conductor), 1992; children: Joseph Purpura Gaylin. Education: Oberlin College, B.A., 1986; Iowa Writer's Workshop, M.F.A., 1990.


Home—Baltimore, MD. Office—Department of Writing and Media, Loyola College, 4501 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21210.


Loyola College, Department of Writing and Media, Baltimore, MD, writer-in-residence, 1990—.


Academy of American Poets Award, 1986; Teaching/Writing Fellowship, University of Iowa Writer's Workshop, 1988-90; Fulbright Fellowship, 1991-92; Blue Mountain Center Residency, 1995; Visions International Translation Prize (first prize), 1996; Millay Colony Resident Fellow, 1996; nominated for Pushcart Prize, 1997; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in prose, 2004; National Book Critics Circle Award nomination, 2007, for On Looking: Essays.


The Brighter the Veil (poetry), Orchises Press (Alexandria, VA), 1996.

(Translator) Taste of Ash and Berliner Tagebuch—Poems of Grzegorz Musial, Fairleigh Dickenson University Press, (Madison, NJ), 1998.

Stone Sky Lifting, Ohio State University Press (Columbus, OH), 2000.

Increase (essays), University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2000.

On Looking: Essays, Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2006.

Author of poems published in numerous journals, including American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Denver Quarterly, and Ploughshares. Translator of poems by Katarzyna Borun-Jagodzinska and Krzysztof Piechowicz. Author of essays and reviews published in several journals, including Willow Springs and Verse.


Critics writing on Lia Purpura's poetry comment that her close observations of the physical world often lead to startling insights into the human experience. Reviewing Purpura's collection The Brighter the Veil in the Ohio State University Journal, A.V. Christie drew attention to "the oddity and invention" of the poet's writing, attributing it both to Purpura's particular "way of seeing" and to the "concision and syntactical novelty" of language. Writes Christie: "Purpura's poems bring their insights to view in pleasingly palpable ways—they feel peculiar in a wash of new voices barely distinguishable." Discussing the same collection in the Antioch Review, Molly Bendall found "political implications" in the "child-like deliberation and air of magical realish" of Purpura's poetry. In Bendall's view, the poems reflect a desire "to find sustaining and timeless forces in the midst of chaos and flux."

Purpura's collection On Looking: Essays was nominated in 2007 for the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. The eighteen essays that make up the volume explore the ramifications of understanding as it arises through observation. But, thanks to Purpura's command of language, said a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "these pieces are not so much essays as prose poems, lyrical hymns to beauty and aesthetics." In artful, carefully chosen language, the author traces the ways in which the human eye—and the human mind—perceive a variety of objects, ranging from a human cadaver undergoing an autopsy to the weather affecting an Ohio sky. "With grace, candor, and restraint," Donna Seaman declared in Booklist, "Purpura muses over what catches the eye and why." "In these essays," concluded a reviewer for the Critical Mass Web log, "Lia Purpura brings a nuanced, highly intelligent, critical eye to our most casual moments of perception."



Antioch Review, winter, 1997, Molly Bendall, review of The Brighter the Veil, p. 118.

Baltimore Sun, January 25, 2007, "Two Baltimoreans among Book Award Finalists."

Booklist, August 1, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of On Looking: Essays, p. 28.

Ohio State University Journal, spring, 1997, A.V. Christie, review of The Brighter the Veil.

Publishers Weekly, July 24, 2000, review of Increase, p. 78; May 29, 2006, review of On Looking, p. 50.


Critical Mass,http://bookcriticscircle.blogspot.com/ (March 8, 2007), review of On Looking.