R. S. Gwynn


Poet, scholar, editor, and critic R.S. Gwynn was born in Eden, North Carolina. He received a BA from Davidson College, where he twice won the Vereen Bell Award for Creative Writing, and he earned both an MA and an MFA from the University of Arkansas, where he won the John Gould Fletcher Award for Poetry. Gwynn has also won the Michael Braude Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Gwynn is the editor of Poetry: A Pocket Anthology (2001) and New Expansive Poetry: Theory, Criticism, History (1999). He has also edited two volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography. His poetry has been featured in many anthologies and textbooks, including The Book of Forms (2000), The Made Thing: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern Poetry (2nd ed., 1999), and Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism (1996)


Desk Clerk

They were pure Okie types. The girl was pretty,
Might’ve at one time owned a slender figure,
But she was big–can’t say I’ve seen one bigger–
And ill at ease even in our “big” city.
The guy was tall, the long-armed gangly type
With both hands scarred and calloused, fingers torn
And healed too many times. I hated saying nope
(which was the truth) but showed them to the barn.

That night I didn’t get much sleep at all.
There were strange things: the oxen’s snorting blent
With curious songs and that bright star that shone
Into my face no matter how I turned. By dawn
They were long gone. But left behind a small
Gold nugget and two sachets of sweet scent.



It is like what? A pause
Between effect and cause,
A stay on nature’s laws;

A rise that troubles all
With ancient years’ recall
Before the flag and fall.

Enough of similes,
Which only toss and tease.
Love has its low degrees,

And older men grow cold
And know they are too old
To multiply the fold.

They know that their desires
Will stoke no unlit fires
Or strike angelic choirs;

Instead, they hoard old schemes
Like unrequited dreams,
And all is as it seems:

A sojourn in the dark,
Where all is stern and stark,
Where one will make no mark.

When days grow gray and grim
The more I cleave to him,
His vistas drear and dim.



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  1. “Hardyesque”–Yes! S3 especially speaks to me, especially that haunting and somehow edifying last line. It’s all fine as well, as it winds so sparely to the wonderful final lines. Congratulations, Sam.

  2. So strong under the deceptive simplicity Sam. I love both of them.

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