The Poetry of Fan Ogilvie: West Tisbury Poet Laureate 2009-2012

fan_smFan Ogilvie is a poet, teacher of poetry, and organizer of poetry workshops and events in Washington, DC, New Haven, CT, New York City, and Martha’s Vineyard. In 1984 she received a Chester Jones Foundation commendation award. She is included in two chapbooks, “The Other Side of the Hill” and “In a Certain Place.” Her poems are published in The Poet and The Poem Anthology, Poet Lore, Three Sisters, Z’Arts, Fulcrum, An Annual of Poetry and Aesthetics, The Martha’s Vineyard Journal of Writing, online on Fieralingue, the Poet’s Corner, and others.

Her public readings include the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Corcoran Museum of Art, Georgetown University, the Stirling Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, among others.

She established the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Poetry Board and served as its chairman from 1986-1995. In addition, she helped to organize the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Program. She taught poetry at the Featherstone Center for the Arts on Martha’s Vineyard from 1996-2007.

She graduated from Smith College earned an MA from George Washington University. She now lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, Donald. They have two children, Jennifer and Adam.



When you receive this update, Shelton,
Know there is not much new news:
The Taliban advances in Pakistan,
Obama just called cinco de mayo,
Cinco de quatro. We have done that
Sort of thing. Ah, West Tisbury elected
A new clerk, Tara Whiting, and
Kousa dogwoods at Polly Hill’s
Synchronize their bloom, and hold it
For a month or more. But these events
Are not news to you. Man of chemistry,
You desire experiments, none greater
Than words fizzing together, word alchemy,
Fools gold or true ore mined deeply
In the brain’s elaborate wiring.


A headless Nike holds a green moth to her bosom
She isa picture. The moth isreal and landed there. Thisisthe vital news you care about-
The news poets make.
“It isdifficult to get the news from poems,
but men die miserably every day for lack
of what isfound there.” You did not die
from that lack.
Your voice asks us
To come, read poems at the library.
You invite us to take risks,pour new
Elements into beakers, see– if we take
Chances, we may arrive: “somewhere
i have never traveled, gladly beyond”
You know, like Freud, ” why isit, wherever
I go, a poet has been there before me?”
Shelton Bank, you seek the true news,
And we are energized to write in the ways
Your ageless angular face and
Keen eyes, vivid, alive, hoping
For surprise, encourage us to do.

Fan Ogilvie
Memorial Service for Shelton Bank June 28, 2009


Goodbye To All That

The early dawn looked clear.
The stale breakfast tasted good.
The sickness in the stomach was fine.
The planes arriving like honey bees were on time.
The crowds shoving into their seats was OK.
The emptying into the bus by the dozens went well.
The metal steps and rusty handrail deplaning were welcome.
And standing at the luggage carrousel when everyone we were supposed
to know who played at knowing us became strangers again
among all the other strangers waiting for luggage,
when I too became a stranger even to myself was best.

Fan Ogilvie

As For Location

Didn’t it all fly at once?

Screech owls, bats, a barn owl,
red tail hawks,
chickadees, nuthatches, wrens,

hummingbirds, tanagers, goldfinch,
an indigo bunting,
the list goes on—
but that’s not the point.

Walking out to the end of the pier,
over the Sound
sounds of
seagulls, ducks, ospreys—

I turn my wings, to a scape of dune
beach plum, pine,
I see—soar—
my shore.

Fan Ogilvie

Dog at the Funeral

For Dave Willey (1947-2008)

I didn’t see him when two planes did a fly-by,
one on the right peeling off in missing-man formation.
Not until I saw his picture with Dave and Dave’s family—
a big lug of a dog, a Great Dane, but smaller, a Doberman,
but ears cupped, long tail, bright eyes, an open mouth.

He walked through the door as we sat, looking around
at the familiar and unfamiliar faces. He did not go
to family members sitting up front. Those he knew,
Instead he chose to mark the strangers, with a sniff,
a flick of his tail, a pause to get an ear scratched.

My first thought was how alike are men and their dogs.
This dog was just like Dave: curious about the unknown.
He would signal to a new friend to come into the cockpit,
sit beside him and talk, so he could sniff him out.
But as the service wore on, the dog looked anxious

to get going somewhere, as if enough had been said.
He got it, Dave was loved and Dave loved.
It was then as he stood at the doorway,
looked up at the skies, I got it. Something the Greeks taught—
in the transformation between life and death, that dog was Dave.

Fan Ogilvie