List of Poems

Poems by Milton Rogovin:

My Theme Boy


Excerpt from "The Lens & the Pen"

"Our father, Milton Rogovin, lives and breathes poetry. Events in our lives, events in the world, always brought certain poems into his mind. So, at dinner, during a discussion among friends and family, while on a hike, or anywhere – our father would recite a relevant poem. It might be Bertolt Brecht’s poem “Pages from a Worker’s Life” or a poem by Langston Hughes. Always, it was a poem which gave greater meaning to a topic.

"I think our father wrote his poems because he wanted to be more overtly political than he could be with just the photographs. He didn’t want us to look at these photos and wonder why someone looked sad or broken. His poems give historical context to the people and places. Our father wanted us to know his thinking, his opinions."

– Paula Rogovin, Milton Rogovin: The Lens & The Pen: Photographs & Poems

The Lens and the Pen contains thirty of Milton's poems, selected by Milton and his family and published for the first time with the photographs that inspired them. Included is Milton's favorite photo and poem, Theme Boy, the image of which comes from his Appalachia series. Published by Palisade Press.

Inspired by Milton's Photographs

For over 40 years poets have been inspired by Milton's work and have collaborated with him on books and publications. A selection of works by the following poets are available online:

Poetry by Milton Rogovin

My Theme Boy

From the Appalachia photo series, 1962-1987

His land is dying

     You can see it

           in his eyes.

The mines are closing

     This too is in his eyes

Look into his eyes

     They will tell you lots -- lots more

           Of mountain tops - stripped and gouged

           Of streams polluted

           Of fish destroyed.

Remember, America

     This should be

     This must be

           The land of opportunity and equality

                for all

                Including this little boy.

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From the Lower West Side photo series, c. 1972

What a great idea!

   to record your love life –

         Not on a ream of paper

               like a lovesick poet

         Not on canvas

               like an amateur painter

         No, no, none of that nonsense –

Here on his left breast –

               a tattoo of Lydia

      And Wanda on his right breast –

      Hilda and lots of others –

               nameless on arms and legs.

Perhaps if you turn around

         we can see you other conquests.

Tell me, Jose

"What’ll you do when you run out of space?"

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