Ron Koertge teaches at Hamline University in their low-residency MFA program for Children’s Writing. His most recent book, Vampire Planet, is a collection of new and selected poems. His other works include Sex World (Red Hen Press, 2014), Fever (Red Hen Press, 2007),Indigo (Red Hen Press, 2009), Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses(Candlewick Press, 2012), and The Ogre’s Wife (Red Hen Press, 2013). Koertge also writes fiction for teenagers, including many novels and novels-in-verse: The Brimstone Journals, Stoner & Spaz, Strays, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup, Shakespeare Makes the Playoffs, and Coaltown Jesus. All were honored by the American Library Association, and two received PEN awards. He is the recipient of grants from the NEA and the California Arts Council and has poems in two volumes of Best American Poetry. He lives in South Pasadena, California.
I Dreamed I Was Emily Dickinson’s Boyfriend
Publication Date: October 4, 2022
I Dreamed I Was Emily Dickinson’s Boyfriend easily solidifies his reputation as a poet who is very funny and also very serious. In these surprising and delightful poems, a mannequin joins the Me Too movement, a summer job turns into a lesson in class distinctions, and Jane Austen makes a surprise appearance at a mall. Ron Koertge’s uniquely playful imagination is on display in poem after poem.
New and surprising poems—sly, inventive, and deeply good-hearted—that journey deep into the imagination’s outer limits. A mannequin talks about her job, Mickey Mouse shops for shoes, and the Bride of Frankenstein remembers her wedding night. Full of surprises and satisfying on many levels, I Dreamed I Was Emily Dickenson’s Boyfriend deserves a place in the poetry section of every heads-up reader.
—Billy Collins, author of Whale Day: And Other Poems
Publication Date: April 5, 2018
Imagine a heaven populated by familiar Greek gods. Sexy Aphrodite, gorgeous Adonis, Ares the warmonger, Artemis the huntress, wise Athena, bitter Demeter, and the like. But imagine also each of these denizens of Olympus stepping forward and revealing qualities that any reader can recognize: Hades, ruler of the underworld, lovesick for Persephone. Baffl ed Hephaestus, god of fire, husband of Aphrodite who can’t keep her clothes on. Add a defiant Sisyphus and a cadre of grumpy water nymphs and those are only some of the inhabitants of Olympusville—a fantastic and, in the hands of poet Ron Koertge and illustrator Alicia Kleman, endlessly intriguing world.
“Wit lets down its guard and, behold: charm, intelligence, amazing inventiveness, and a kind of sweetness in its patient regard for a world so frequently bereft of those qualities. So what could be more welcome than a new Koertge collection, where wit presides, and wisdom elegantly clothed in laughter is always in attendance.”—B. H. Fairchild, author of The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems
“Koertge chronicles secret hungers and vulnerabilities, acerbic tenderness, and the soul’s wrestling match with what it wants versus what it needs and deserves.”—Amy Gerstler, author of Dearest Creature
Publication Date: April 1, 2016
Vampire Planet is an eclectic, witty, and often moving New & Selected collection of poems from a writer whom former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins calls “the wisest, most entertaining wise guy in American poetry.”
Ron Koertge wants to do nothing but delight. Armed with wit and brains, he introduces readers to Dr. Frankenstein’s frustrated fiancée and gives an alternate reading to the Bible story about Lot’s nameless wife. He rues the loss of a favorite pair of underpants, attends a bachelor party where Mr. Magoo makes an appearance, and suggests what cheerleaders will be like in the future. Death comes home from a business trip to his favorite meal, and Epeius–who designed the Trojan horse–turns out to be a better architect than a warrior. Saint George muses about girls, and on her honeymoon Mrs. Mark Trail wishes her husband would take his eyes off that moose and get down to business. Like Reverend Ike and John Lennon said, “Whatever gets you through the night”–this book will do that and carry you right into the next day. Guaranteed.
“Is anyone writing poems that are as memorable, masterful, and quirky as Ron Koertge’s? If you want the lowdown on Lilith, and if you can bear to read about Lois Lane aging, and if you long to know the unsavory truth about Lazarus after he returned from the dead, this deliciously smart and entertaining collection of poems is the one you’ve been looking for!”—Steve Kowit
“Whimsey meet Oddness. Meet Oddness, Pathos. Hey, Pathos let me introduce you to Funniness. Don’t make fun of her name, though, don’t try to be funny—leave that to her. Fantastical! Say, I’d like you meet Whimsey, Oddness, Pathos and Funniness. (Yeah, shush, we’ve heard that jokestick with the fantastical, O.K.?) Is that . . . ? Look, it’s Ron Koertge, hanging out with Tenderness. Hey Koertge! C’mere, I want you to meet Whimsey, Oddness, Pathos and Fun . . . Oh, you know them already? Oh. You guys know Ron? For a long time? Oh. Yes. Right. I knew that.”—Suzanne Lummis
“Wit, the impeccably dressed and better educated sibling of funny, suffers an unstable reputation: clever yet aloof, socially polished but oddly cold. In the warmer, less formal surroundings of Ron Koertges poems, however, wit lets down its guard and, behold: charm, intelligence, amazing inventiveness, and a kind of sweetness in its patient regard for a world so frequently bereft of those qualities. So what could be more welcome than a new Koertge collection, where wit presides, and wisdom elegantly clothed in laughter is always in attendance.”—B.H. Fairchild
“Ron Koertge is an expert in the art of disorientation. His tongue-in-cheek poems are clever, of course, but they also dispense an unsettling, probably illegal mixture of Novocain and Kool-Aid. When you finish a poem by Koertge, you look around with the sensation that your living room furniture has been rearranged while you were away. This is his long-standing, one-person campaign for wakefulness in the human situation. The New & Selected Poems is a serious cocktail.”—Tony Hoagland
“Many Koertge classics are gathered here (like ‘Coloring’ and ‘Cinderella’s Diary’) alongside new and surprising poems that journey deep into the imagination’s outer limits. Vampire Planet deserves a place in the poetry section of every heads-up reader.”—Billy Collins
Publication Date: September 16, 2014
Ron Koertge eagerly tries his talented hand at Flash Fiction. In “BFF,” a teenage girl from the near-future orders friends from Amazon. A few pages later, a robot who travels what is left of the world and observes through “well-engineered eyes” claims that the sound of turbines is his lullaby. A fed-up daughter finds a foolproof way to do away with her awful mother, while in “Jesus Dog” a mysterious animal helps a broken man recover. A page from Lois Lane’s secret diary reveals a shocking secret. Many mothers and daughters will see themselves in Ron’s version of the Persephone & Demeter story. Readers are ushered aboard a mysterious train and later invited to listen in as a teacher chats with a peculiar student named Oliver Oliver. A distant relative of Leda takes her boyfriend to the arboretum with grisly results, and Mr. Weenie tells his daughter how he and her mother met. “Sex World,” the title story, turns out to not be about sex at all, but heartbreak. In these and dozens more, Ron lives up to his reputation as someone who is funny the way the truly serious often are.
Negative Space, a short film by Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter, has been nominated for a 2018 Academy Award for Best Animated Short. The film is based on a Ron’s prose poem of the same name that was originally published in his collection Sex World.
Negative Space from Tiny Inventions on Vimeo.
“Sex World‘s brief, potent stories reveal a master satirist trafficking in dark desires, buried fears, black comedy, and the swirl of holy and unholy we all contain. Koertge chronicles secret hungers and vulnerabilities, acerbic tenderness, and the soul’s wrestling match with what it wants versus what it needs and deserves.”—Amy Gerstler, author of Dearest Creature
“Ron Koertge walked into a bar. ‘Read my stories,’ he said. ‘They’re good.’ ‘I don’t have time,’ I said. I was wrong. He was right.”—Pete Hautman, winner of the National Book Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize
“In this remarkable collection of flash fiction, Ron Koertge proves that he’s a master of the form. He teases out lyricism from the most mundane of words, and significance from the most mundane of situations.”—Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese
The Ogre’s Wife
Publication Date: September 1, 2013
Ron Koertge wants to do nothing but delight. Armed with his trademark wit, he introduces readers to Little Red Riding Hood all grown up with a fondness for salsa and chips, explores the thorny relationship of Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, spies a Trojan pony and the children it bamboozles, and offers an alternate reading to the Icarus story. He meets Walt Whitman on the set of an X-rated movie, attends his gardener’s funeral, and goes to his beloved race track. Seminal figures from pop mythology speak up in unexpected ways: The Beast, transformed by Beauty, hints that his new life isn’t exactly what he expected. Gretel enrolls in night school, the ogre’s wife from the beanstalk yarn writes a heart-rending story on her cutting board, and a group of fourth-graders on a field trip encounters Death. Occasionally setting aside free verse, there are couplets about a Bette Davis movie, a sestina about routine blood tests, a villanelle set in a topless bar, and a set of haibun that chronicles an entire day. Reverend Ike and John Lennon said, “Whatever gets you through the night.” This book will do just that and carry you right on in to the next day, guaranteed.
“It has been apparent from Ron’s earliest published works–many of which long ago qualified as contemporary classics–that he was the most innately talented poet of his generation (mine too: I might call us the Second World War-Babies). No one has been more gifted at transferring to the page the wittiest, most concretely detailed, and most startlingly original conceits of a dazzlingly colloquial phalanx of post-Beat, pre-Boomer bards. With the years he has streamlined his style, with no sacrifice of brilliance. His prose narratives, teaching career, and graceful readings are similarly legendary. Had I the power to do so, I would (in a wink and with one) decorate him as the next Poet Laureate of these good ol’ United States.”—Gerald Locklin
“Wit, the impeccably dressed and better educated sibling of funny, suffers an unstable reputation: clever yet aloof, socially polished but oddly cold. In the warmer, less formal surroundings of Ron Koertge’s poems, however, wit lets down its guard and, behold: charm, intelligence, amazing inventiveness, and a kind of sweetness in its patient regard for a world so frequently bereft of those qualities. So what could be more welcome than a new Koertge collection, where wit presides, and wisdom elegantly clothed in laughter is always in attendance.”—B.H. Fairchild
Publication Date: November 1, 2009
Traditionally, the ghazal, an ancient Persian form, has a lot of requirements (couplets, rhyme, refrain), but one specific subject—love. Especially illicit and unattainable love. So what are readers to make of Ron Koertge’s ghazals which are about, among other things, the Seven Dwarfs, Technicolor, and Mothra? Well, you probably can’t beat him, so you may as well join him as—with a white hot imagination and irrepressible and unpredictable lyricism—he bends a few rules and breaks the rest. And yet his subject is still love. But not illicit or unattainable, since what he really loves is language. And language loves him back. There it is on every page, lying at his feet, panting.
Publication Date: April 1, 2006
“Ron Koertge can elevate the ordinary places of America — the backyard, the classroom, the mall — into scenes of mock-epic significance. He can just as easily lower the mythic worlds of Superman, Ozymandias and Cinderella to a level just a few inches above the bathetic. And he does all this with a charming combination of wit and empathy, satire and sweetness.”— Billy Collins
“I would think a poem entitled ‘Getting Tough with John Ruskin,’ ‘Ozymandias and Harriet,’ or ‘Teen Jesus’ would be enough to entice any reader. But permit it to be known that Koertge also carries around a lexicon that includes locutions such as ‘snazzy,’ a word I haven’t heard since my last Canasta game in 1959. We all know who said that poetry begins in delight and ends in wisdom, but Koertge might have said it because his poems are delight and wisdom all the way through. They are also very funny, the way the truly serious often is. This is a snazzy book, also a beautiful one, and I strongly urge you to buy it.”—B.H. Fairchild