Her Place in These Designs

Rhina P. Espaillat


From her early childhood in the Dominican Republic, Rhina Espaillat learned the pleasures of traditional lyric poetry with wordplay, repetition, and patterns of sounds that allow for interplay between sound and sense.

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From her early childhood in the Dominican Republic, Rhina Espaillat learned the pleasures of traditional lyric poetry with wordplay, repetition, and patterns of sounds that allow for interplay between sound and sense. In this engaging and sensitive collection of poetry, she illuminates what is universal in women’s lives and draws our attention to the humanly touching experiences.

Espaillat has published ten previous collections of her work. Her poems, essays, narratives, and translations have won numerous awards, and have appeared in many magazines and on web sites, and in some fifty anthologies.

Rhina Espaillat is the Complete Poet: Her lyricism in Her Place in These Designs is pitch-perfect in two languages; her understanding of life is deep, and she is able to render meaning in scenarios that are all but palpable. If one didn’t know better, one would swear her lines were inevitable and that these artful sonnets, sestinas, villanelles and nonce forms grew from simple seed planted in the loam of her mind. This is a wonderful, and a wonderfully readable, book from cover to cover.

—Lewis Turco

The poems are terrific: moving, intelligent, authentically felt and beautifully musical. When Espaillat works in rhyme and meter, which she does frequently, the power of her narratives and perceptions transcends their difficult forms.

San Diego Union-Tribune, August 7, 2010




My Father’s Coins
Lares et Penates
Remembering My Parents
Remembering Books They Read Together
In That Old Dream Again
January ’41
On Rereading a Sonnet Written in 1941
Grainy Bits
Evening News
Keeping Up with the News
On Schedule
Purim Parade
Find Work
In Black and White
Four Lessons
Clara, My Unconceived
Evan, Breathing
Lift -off
Turning the Begonia
Leaving the Bittersweet
All Saints’ Day
Marine Salvage Museum, Florida
In the Diner
As She Tells It
In Sioux Falls at Thirty-Seven
Poem in April
If There Had Been
Canción Penúltima
Next-to-last Song
Hoy Me Pregunto
Lately I’ve Wondered
Cleaning Out
At the Nurses’ Station
Blue Valise
Body’s Weight
In Eight Degrees
Case Study
Crab Poem
Three for the Bones
Dinner, Ocala, February 1997
Lily of the Valley
Leonardo’s Metaphor
On the Ambivalence of Angels:
 Expulsion from Paradise, Giovanni di Paolo
The Ball Game: Chichén Itzá
Paul Helleu Sketching with His Wife, John Singer Sargent
Portrait of Don Manuel Osorio de Zúñiga
Nothing New
Corot, Man Scything By a Willow Plot
On the Power of Love to Ennoble the Spirit
The Bath, Mary Cassatt
On Hearing My Name Pronounced Correctly, Unexpectedly, for Once
The Poet’s Husband Engages in Gourmet Cooking
She Resists, but Barely
On the Walls
Quiet, Now
On the Impossibility of Translation

About the Author


Rhina P. Espaillat was born in the Dominican Republic and lives in Massachusetts. Her work has been published widely in magazines and anthologies and on websites, and she has received numerous awards for her poetry. She coordinates the Newburyport Art Reading Series, and is a frequent reader, speaker, and workshop director at various institutions.

TSUP has also published two of her other poetry collections, Where Horizons Go and Playing at Stillness.


Her body of meticulously crafted formal poems places her among the best poets of the last half-century. To match their variegated diction, range of subjects, and depth of thought and feeling, one must turn to her slightly elder peers, Richard Wilbur and the late Anthony Hecht for comparison.… Though modern in their intellectual skepticism and religious uncertainty, her poems do not succumb to despair or moral relativism. Espaillat is a poet of hope.

First Things

Order, of course, characterizes Rhina P. Espaillat’s poetry. In this collection, nearly every poem is either metrical or syllabic.… There are sestinas, rich in thought and imagery, that sound like musical prose in spite of the repetitious end scheme, and villanelles that avoid the endemic monotony of the form by the similarly engrossing things they are saying and also by the wide liberties the poet takes with words inside the repeated lines. Espaillat’s order never drones. It keeps encountering small discords, ironic parentheses, and surprising words. All the poems, as widely as they range, speak with the same womanly and very human voice. This is a wonderful book.



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