Rivard, David 1953-

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Rivard, David 1953-


Born December 2, 1953, in Fall River, MA; son of Norman and Barbara Rivard; married Michaela Sullivan (a book jacket designer and art director), December 17, 1982; children: Simone. Education: Southeastern Massachusetts University, B.A., 1975; University of Arizona, M.F.A., 1982.


Home—Cambridge, MA. E-mail—[email protected]


Writer. Tufts University, Medford, MA, member of English faculty, 1987—. Vermont College, teacher for Writing Program, 1990-2005; Sarah Lawrence College, visiting professor, 1996-97.


Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize, University of Pittsburgh, 1987, for Torque; Guggenheim fellowship; fellowships from National Endowment for the Arts 1986, 1991, and from Fine Art Work Center in Provincetown, MA, 1984-85, 1986-87; Pushcart Prize, 1994, 2005; fellow of Massachusetts Cultural Council, 1994; James Laughlin Award, Academy of America Poets, 1996, for Wise Poison; O.B. Harbison, Jr., Poetry Prize, Folger Shakespeare Library, 2006; Celia B. Wagner Award, Poetry Society of America.


Torque (poetry), University of Pittsburgh Press (Pittsburgh, PA), 1988.

Wise Poison (poetry), Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 1996.

Bewitched Playground (poetry), Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2000.

Sugartown (poetry), Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2006.

Work represented in anthologies, including Best American Poetry, 2006; Poets of the New Century; and Contemporary American Poetry. Contributor of poetry and essays to periodicals, including American Poetry Review, Slate, Ploughshares, New England Review, Tri-Quarterly, and Poetry. Poetry editor, Harvard Review.


With his first verse collection, Torque, David Rivard distinguished himself as a writer of volatile poems with striking imagery. In this work Rivard concentrates on the working-class tenor. Fast automobiles, assembly lines, basketball games, and drug users are all developed to tell the stories of childhood, relationships, and life that are prominent in Rivard's work, along with a sense of despair and an awareness of life's hardships. His work, however, is not entirely downbeat. Concerned parents and committed lovers are also recognized, though they are not, perhaps, as widespread as are more disturbing elements of human nature and life. And though the author concedes in his discourse that good does exist along with evil, his characters in Torque display a "psychological paralysis," according to a Booklist reviewer, and are resolutely affixed in their barely tolerable lives. He creates, said a Publishers Weekly critic, "dramatic tension" in depicting our human weaknesses.

Rivard followed Torque with Wise Poison, another award-winning volume of visceral, unsettling verses that prompted some critics to describe him as a distinctive and compelling poet. Rivard has won impressive recognition for his work.

The poems in Bewitched Playground, "some quite common, some bizarre," as a Publishers Weekly reviewer described them, cover a lot of ground. They recall the wildness of the 1960s, celebrate the lives of friends long gone, and contemplate the life of a young daughter in verse of "terrifically unpredictable" quality. The brilliance of Rivard's best efforts override his failures sufficiently, the reviewer commented, to make a visit to the poet's playground worth the trip.

In Sugartown, Rivard's poetry speeds like a racecar, suggested Robert Pinsky in the Washington Post Book World, "covering the maximum distance in the least time." The critic, a longtime admirer of Rivard's work, recommended "these street-wise, book-wise, eloquent poems" without reservation. Library Journal contributor Fred Muratori found less to like. He described the entries as "mood pieces" of varying impact, ranging from moments of "vivid imagery [that] lends immediacy" to awkward and sometimes hastily cobbled-together fragments of occasional wit. Or, as a Publishers Weekly reviewer commented with greater charity: "His free verse manages unusual variety" in Rivard's "defiant, committed search for grace."



Agni, spring, 1997, review of Wise Poison; fall, 2000, review of Bewitched Playground.

Booklist, October 1, 1988, review of Torque, p. 214.

Boston Review, January-February, 1997, review of Wise Poison.

Harvard Review, fall, 1996, review of Wise Poison; fall, 2000, review of Bewitched Playground.

Library Journal, March 1, 2006, Fred Muratori, review of Sugartown, p. 92.

Ploughshares, spring, 1997, Don Lee, "Contributor Spotlight: David Rivard."

Publishers Weekly, August 26, 1988, review of Torque; February 1, 2000, review of Bewitched Playground, p. 83; October 24, 2005, review of Sugartown, p. 40.

Tikkun, September-October, 2000, review of Bewitched Playground.

Washington Post Book World, March 26, 2006, Robert Pinsky, review of Sugartown.


Agni Online,http://www.bu.edu/agni/ (spring, 2006), Jennifer S. Fletcher, "Finding Indirection: An Interview with David Rivard."