You Never Know

Poetry by Ron Padgett

April 1, 2002 • 7 x 10 • 96 pages • 978-1-56689-128-8

Ron Padgett’s playful, nonchalant poetry is all delightful circumstance without the pomp.

Ron Padgett’s playful work is all circumstance without the pomp. You Never Know captures the joy and curiosity of a writer whose easy, nonchalant style displays the unfeigned fascination of the forever young. Padgett peers under rocks, skips over fences, and scans the sky to lend a capricious view to puckish poems that breathe with celebration.

About the Author

Ron Padgett grew up in Tulsa and has lived mostly in New York City since 1960. Among his many honors are a Guggenheim Fellowship, the American Academy of Arts and Letters poetry award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Padgett’s How Long was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in poetry and his Collected Poems won the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America and the Los Angeles Times Prize for the best poetry book of 2013. In addition to being a poet, he is also the translator of Guillaume Apollinaire, Pierre Reverdy, and Blaise Cendrars. His own work has been translated into eighteen languages.


You Never Know would be my contender for Book of the Year. . . . Here, we see the poet at the height of his extraordinary powers, sparkling with wit and erudition.” The Guardian

You Never Know brings Padgett’s vision into brilliantly sharp focus as he opens the gates to the carnival of his mind.” Colorado Springs Independent

“Coming through with clarity and charm in his seventh full collection, Padgett is the undisputed Zen master of the chicane, maintaining a perfectly readable and casual tone while turning meanings on a dime, or several dimes, on his way to a reliably radiant and melancholy conclusion. . . . This is Padgett’s most moving book to date.” Publishers Weekly

“Is there another American poet who could make us stop and wonder why woodpeckers don’t get headaches? Could anyone else do a better job of evoking the small, tactile pleasures of sweeping up dust with a cornstraw broom? The Ron Padgett of yore is still with us—as charming, unpretentious, and surprising as ever—but there is a new Ron Padgett in this book as well: a poet of heart-breaking tenderness and ever deepening wisdom. In You Never Know, he has become a chronicler of mortality, an elegist of worlds that vanish before our eyes.” —Paul Auster

“Ron Padgett makes the most quiet and sensible of feelings a provocatively persistent wonder. You never know what he’ll think of next!” —Robert Creeley

“These ‘late’ poems of Ron Padgett have the clearness, the small sadness, and the big space of Guillaume Apollinaire, one of the many French writers he has translated into English. They are like a glass of transparent Vittel water held against the sky of Paris. ‘I am forty-nine years old and surrounded by death. Does writing help? Probably not,’ he writes in a poem about a friend who has since died. But Ron’s writing helps us. Enormously.” —John Ashbery

“A Padgett classic. He has, with obvious premeditation and pleasure, employed his most characteristic ‘tricks’ to produce a deep, funny book.The poet makes superlative use of the directive writing consciousness—often automatic pilot—to tap the unconscious for memory, vision, emotion, and the unexpected and indefinable. The poems speak backwards and forwards in time, to self, to family and friends, to poetic technique, to the birds caged in the chest. It is so lovely.” —Alice Notley

“Ron Padgett’s poems sing with absolutely true pitch. And they are human friendly. Their search for truths, both small and large, can be cause for laughter, or at least a thoughtful sigh.” —James Tate