Words on the Street

by Anna Rabinowitz


“Anna Rabinowitz at her highest, boldest register.”
— Timothy Donnelly

Format: paperback

ISBN: 978-1-936797-80-6 Categories: , Tag:

“A Juniper Prize–winning poet (At the Site of Inside Out) and a librettist—The Wanton Sublime is a chamber opera and monodrama for mezzo-soprano—Rabinowitz offers poetry as story as near drama. The setting is a time of ‘worn-thin profits’ when ‘children, like troublesome details, were marooned/ within gaps of being with nowhere to turn,’ the heroine is a baby endangered by several mysterious figures, and the tone is energized Occupy Wall Street surreal. Rabinowitz scatters lines across the ever-turning pages and dares you to follow. VERDICT For all rebels at heart.” — Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

“Recent political events resonate through these pages even though the pages were printed before the events. This is how the literary operates its uncanny presence. The tension of past tense versus future readings sometimes astonishes, sometimes consoles. I do not know what consolation is available here beyond that which always accompanies the display of dexterity, intelligence, wit, and wisdom.” — Bin Ramke, The Denver Quarterly

Winner, 2017 Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize

Words on the Street is set in the center of a mystery. An infant is abducted and seven symbolic figures play their metaphoric fiddles while humanity is plagued by chronic threat, insecurity, and confusion. This is not a book for the faint of heart. It is to be read at the peril of complacency. It situates the reader in a landscape choked with graffiti, teeming with hearsay and falsehood. Human existence roils with questions about artifice and reality; the absurd and the comic; good and evil; the knowable and the unknowable. Above all, the words on the street, namely Anna Rabinowitz’s words, pave the street we all inhabit, speaking from the primal core of the human predicament: the conundrum between two whys.

“Anna Rabinowitz at her highest, boldest register.” — Timothy Donnelly

Photo by Elena Seiburt

A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Anna Rabinowitz has published five volumes of poetry: Words on the StreetPresent Tense, The Wanton Sublime: A Florilegium of Whethers and Wonders, Darkling: A Poem, and At the Site of Inside Out.

She has written the librettos for The Wanton Sublime, a monodrama with original music by Tarik O’Regan, and Darkling, a multi-media opera with music by Stefan Weisman. Darkling excerpts have been performed in many venues, and a full-length production ran for three weeks Off-Broadway. A semi-staged concert version traveled to Europe. Darkling’s latest incarnations are a CD from Albany Records, and a bi-lingual German-English translation from Luxbooks, Weisbaden, Germany.

She has published widely in such journals as Atlantic Monthly, Boston Review, The Paris Review, Colorado Review, Southwest Review, Denver Quarterly, Sulfur, LIT, VOLT, and Verse. Her poetry has appeared in the anthologies, The Best American Poetry 1989, edited by Donald Hall, Life on the Line: Selections on Words and Healing, The KGB Bar Reader, The Poets’ Grimm, Poetry Daily, Poetry After 9/11, Blood to Remember, Women Poets on Mentorship, and Aftershocks: The Poetry of Recovery.


National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (2001)
Juniper Prize (1997)


Read the Bookslut interview with Anna Rabinowitz, where she describes the adaptation of her book Darkling for the stage.

Davida Singer of Theater Scene.net, interviews Anna Rabinowitz about her book Darkling, and how it became an opera.

The literary blog Bookslut interviews Anna Rabinowitz, author of Darkling.

American Letters & Commentary

American Opera Projects

Chimera Review

Barrow Street


Reviews of Anna Rabinowitz’s Darkling

Reviews of Anna Rabinowitz’s The Wanton Sublime

Additional information

Weight .4 lbs
Dimensions 6 × .5 × 9 in

from BABY

Vanished as if she had somewhere else
to go and had to arrive without delay

How sudden her flight, how lithe her legs
winging arms, swift of flex

Nowhere was dying
to greet her

She made her getaway with ease

weightless dancergrace

from place to space

Birds, kites, flying fans
could speed no better

But we slept —
that was the rub…

Baby called our bluff



My soul is not itself,
A loud jargogle invades the plague of contingency.

Of course, I often deliciate in a state of confusion,
Especially when I wildly corrade detritus with illusion.

Many collages create mayhem, but these days folks
Giggle and kench, hosting bitter tears in their eyes.

No one seeks the mockery or scorn of ludibrious games.
Our ailing world is dedicated to erase sanguinolency.

Hence the decline of bloodshed in our current wars.
Drones, our best-to-date grade A, silent, unmanned aer-

ial vehicles, our sleek UAVs, aces of launch and leave,
Save lives. SAVE LIVES. Hip, hip, hooray, yippee!?

Remote control: surf the Web, site define
In its prime: eye on the screen, eye in the sky.

Get it down cold in comfy seats at safe old Creech.
Skill the scan, learn the drill and clinch their cease.

The shift is done, a setting sun, and home
To ground round patties on the grill, a jog with the dog,

A kiss for kids, drowsy, and wiped, hitting the sheets,
Plus shades down for a fuck, a hug, and a good night’s sleep.

We’ve navigated a boundless longinquity.

Life is luculent.

War is kind.