Joseph Harrison was born in Richmond, Virginia, grew up in Virginia and Alabama, and studied at Yale and Johns Hopkins. His first book, Someone Else’s Name (Waywiser, 2003), was named as one of five poetry books of the year by The Washington Post and was a finalist for the Poets’ Prize. His second book, Identity Theft, was published by Waywiser in 2008. His poems have appeared in such anthologies as The Best American Poetry 1998, 180 More Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, The Library of America’s American Religious Poems, the Penguin Pocket Anthology of Poetry, and the Penguin Pocket Anthology of Literature, and in many journals. In 2005 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2009 he received a Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where he serves as the Senior American Editor of the Waywiser Press.
The Last Book
Such things were treasured objects, long ago,
Bound in calf's leather, framed by marbled boards,
Arranged by code in capitals, prized hoards
Of variorum, quire, and folio.
But now, downloaded, Xeroxed, put on tape
To quicken the commute's redundant trip,
Whole oeuvres shrink onto a microchip
And, volume after volume, lose their shape.
Who'll be the very last human to hold
One of these curious relics in his hands,
And think of vanished rivers, vanished birds,
And wonder why, in distant times and lands,
We made such settings for the tales we told
And placed such binding value on our words?