Thursday, May 28, 2015

Maryfrances Wagner launches DIORAMAS, 7 pm May 28, Raven Bookstore

See Maryfrances Wagner read from her new Mammoth book DIORAMAS, at Big Tent, 7 pm May 28, 7 East 7th St. (Raven Bookstore) in Lawrence! In an upcoming review, Charlotte Mandel writes, "These poems gift us with vibrant vignettes." Here's a sample:


Flutter and sputter, they motored in spurts.
They wobbled, tottered, popped from shrubs.
In their climb they lumbered one leaf at a time.
Shells clung to fences, bark, flower stems.
Mud tombs funneled the earth, life
in reverse. For days they spiraled up,
lopsided as choppers carrying heavy loads;
their voices were engines trying to turn.
Within a week, the full throttle of clack
and whine trilled from the highest limbs,
a bacchanal we couldn’t unplug. On every
walk one spun like a toppled windup toy
or reflected its iridescence from gutter
or lawn until one day the last sputter
fizzled out, and they were gone.

(c. 2015 Maryfrances Wagner. Used with permission)

About DIORAMAS: Maryfrances Wagner reinvents the process of memory as she guides readers through living tableaux of her past. Her views of Italian American life in the heartland annotates a rich cultural heritage. This award-winning poet shares a rich store of vivid imagery and passion, whimsy and reflection. Maryfrances Wagner lives in Kansas City, where she is a literary advocate and community builder. Wagner's writings about Italian American life have been anthologized by Pearson/Longman and others. Her work appears in New Letters, Laurel Review, Birmingham Review, Nebraska Review, Midwest Quarterly, and others. Her previous books of poetry include Salvatore's Daughter (BkMk), Red Silk (Mid-America), winner of the Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), and Light Subtracts Itself (Mid-American). She co-edits I-70 Review. William Trowbridge, Poet Laureate of Missouri, writes, "The poems in Dioramas focus mainly on moments lost to the sneak-thief Time, moments sometimes observed with an apt touch of humor. Whether she's writing about her Italian brother's blip of fame dancing past a lower corner of the TV picture in an Arthur Murray Party broadcast or about a good friend dying of AIDS or about the evanescent beauty of cicadas, Maryfrances Wagner does so with passion and craftsmanship, showing what a gifted poet with a generous heart can do."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

It's Eric McHenry! Congratulations to the 5th Kansas Poet Laureate.

Denise Low, Eric McHenry, Wyatt Townley, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg--Poets Laureate of Kansas. Jonathan Holden (not pictured), was the first Kansas Poet Laureate. The installation of McHenry was May 21, 2015 at the Cider Gallery of Lawrence, KS. The Poet Laureate program is sponsored by the Ks. Humanities Council.
Eric McHenry is the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Kansas. I wrote about his poetry on this blog in 2011, Denise Low Postings-Eric McHenry, about my discovery of his work in a Washington D.C. bookstore. His formal verse continues to inspire me, even though it is different from my own aesthetic. His connection to history, place, and zen-direct moments involve readers in each of his poems.

McHenry’s poems connect to the British literary tradition, reframed for a contemporary Mid-Plains context. He told Miranda Ericsson of the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, “As to meter and rhyme, I just adore Frost and Auden and Gwendolyn Brooks and I want their chops. I want to make the kind of music they made with language, and I want to make it seem as effortless as they did, and that’s going to take a lot of effort.” He often writes about his family and neighborhood from multiple perspectives at once, as in this poem where glass reflections evoke the repetitions of human generations. The plainspoken Midwestern dialect of American English seems “effortless,” as it conveys images with multiple dimensions.
       Memory of Evan, four or five years old

If it has been an open
window you would’ve kept
walking, but because
it was sun-puzzled glass
you saw me through, you stopped
halfway across the yard,
and squinted through the glare,
and waved, and seemed to wait
for something else to happen,

and finally it became
apparent that it had
already, and that you
were being kept from what
you’d been about to do
by nothing, and you gave
me one more gentle wave—
I’m here, you’re there—
and left me in my frame.

 (© Eric McHenry  “Apparent” was first published in Seattle Review. Used with permission.)
Eric McHenry attended Beloit College and earned his MA in creative writing at Boston University. His two books of poetry are Potscrubber Lullabies (Kate Tufts Discovery Award, The Waywiser Press, 2006) and Mommy Daddy Evan Sage (The Waywiser Press, 2011). McHenry's poems have been featured in The Harvard Review, Seattle Review, The New Republic, Agni, Orion, and Slate. Editors of Poetry Northwest named McHenry winner of the annual Theodore Roethke Prize for best poems in the 2010 magazine. His criticism appears in The New York Times Book Review, Salon, and Poetry Daily. He is a winner of the Academy of American Poets Prize. He currently lives in Lawrence and teaches creative writing at Washburn University of Topeka. He is a fifth-generation Topekan and graduate of Topeka High School.

Kansas Humanities Council Poet Laureate Program 
Kansas Poets,
Slate poems, essays, and reviews:


Monday, May 18, 2015


MoonStain is predominately a compilation of narrative memoir poetry that transitions the reader through different stages of Miller's life. The book opens with a “Blood Moon” sequence. Use of the blood moon image, the full orange moon at full lunar eclipse, shows the stain on Miller's childhood due to the loss of her mother by suicide at age three. MoonStain is divided into additional categories: “New Moon,” “Moon Shadows,” “Moonbeams” and “Full Moon.” David Romtvedt, former Wyoming Poet Laureate, explains Moonstain: "The key to the book [is] the narrator's longing for connection - to the earth, to lover's and friends, to herself.”

 "In MoonStain, verses change as the moon; they sometimes reflect turbulent light, other times small rays of harmonic, poetic rhythms. Ronda Miller becomes one with the moon, channeling and celebrating what is feminine, dark, passion, shadows, desire, and love. Miller channels and celebrates the here and now, every day themes, memories. And within her poetry, sacred word for eternity, she heals herself and is reborn." Xánath Caraza – Award winning author of the International Latino Book Awards and author of Syllables of Wind / Sílabas de Viento


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Nebraska Poet Greg Kosmicki Explains the Chapbook

Stephen F. Austin State University Press has published Greg Kosmicki's newest book of poetry, Sheep Can Recognize Individual Faces. Laura Madeline Wiseman interviews him for her blog, "The Chapbook Interview: Greg Kosmicki on Death, Work, and the Writing Life" (March 18, 2015). In this interview, Kosmicki gives a nifty explanation of a chapbook's advantages: "Because chapbooks are shorter, they force you to leave out the poem about your parents growing old and the one about when Old Shep your dog died if the rest of your chapbook is about all the time you spent in the army smoking dope and lobbing grenades or whatever. A chapbook is more like a short story—you have to have a unified action and everything has to relate to the same theme, all lead to the ending climax, just because it’s short, and you don’t have the space to goof around."

This veteran poet is retiring from The Backwaters Press, one of the leading presses in the Mid-Plains region. He will read for The Big Tent series in Lawrence (Raven Bookstore, 7 pm) Oct. 22, 2015. See more of this excellent interview at this link:

Friday, February 20, 2015

National Book Critics Circle Poetry Awards to be announced March 12

Good luck to all the finalists for the NBCC poetry award this year:


Saeed Jones, Prelude to Bruise (Coffee House Press)
Willie Perdomo, The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon (Penguin)
Claudia Rankine, Citizen: An American Lyric (Graywolf)
Christian Wiman, Once in the West (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Jake Adam York, Abide (Southern Illinois University)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Denise Low reviews Ted Kooser, Lawrence Matsuda, Gwen Nell Westerman, and Jane Hoogestraat

Denise Low reviews new poetry by Ted Kooser, Lawrence Matsuda, Gwen Nell Westerman, and Jane Hoogestraat for the Kansas City Star. The review begins:

"A horse-drawn carriage represents mid-Plains history to Ted Kooser, former U.S. poet laureate from Nebraska. Other poets also have delved into personal heritage deep between the bookends of the coasts. Lawrence Matsuda writes about Japanese internment camps of World War II, with related images by Lawrence artist Roger Shimomura. Gwen Nell Westerman remembers her grandmother’s Dakota Sioux teachings, while the Low German dialect is what poet Jane Hoogestraat retrieves from her Great Plains immigrant past. All these poets link their own experience to larger concerns of historic narratives. They love and mourn, like other poets, but they also document and humanize the past. . . ."
Read more here:  

Read more here:

  • Splitting an Order by Ted Kooser (109 pages; Copper Canyon Press; $23.00)

  • Glimpses of a Forever Foreigner: Poetry and Artwork Inspired by Japanese American Experiences by Lawrence Matsuda, with artwork by Roger Shimomura (106 pages; CreateSpace; $21)

  • Follow the Blackbirds: Poems by Gwen Nell Westerman (72 pages, Michigan State University Press, $16.95);

  • Border States by Jane Hoogestraat, winner of the John Ciardi prize (74 pages, BkMk Press, $13.95)

Read more here:

Read more here:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Poets, take note!  You can win a free ticket to go on the Kansas Author’s Trail trip on Saturday, March 21.  Submit your poem to Sharon Senger ( or mail to 213 Virginia Road, Excelsior Springs, MO 64024. One entry will be awarded a free trip, worth $85. Kansas Author’s Trail is a day trip celebrating William Inge, Gordon Parks, Eugene Ware, Langston Hughes, and William Burroughs.  Denise Low will be tour guide in Lawrence. The trip is a fundraiser for the Poetry Café, an activity of the Excelsior Springs Cultural Guild’s Gatsby Days Celebration. Deadline is February 14, 2015.  For more information Contact:  Stephany Hughes – – 816.630.7708
The Poetry Café of Excelsior Springs invites anyone to participate in these two events:
  1.  The Footprints of Poets and Authors Day Trip is on Saturday, March 21, 2015.  You will meet a luxury motor coach in the parking lot of K-Mart in Liberty, MO, at 7:30 a.m., pick up additional passengers at the western Lenexa Price Chopper (K-10 and Woodland Road), and proceed to Lawrence, Kansas, where you will become familiar with the homes, lives, and works of Langston Hughes and William S. Burroughs (with Denise Low as tour guide, and Lawrence residents can start the tour here), then ride on to Ft. Scott, Kansas.  After lunch at the beautiful Lyons Twin Mansions, you will enjoy the Gordon Parks Center for Culture and Diversity, plus you will enjoy a short program on the life of Eugene Fitch Ware, first Poet Laureate of Kansas.  Your bus will arrive back in Kansas City in time for you to have a relaxing evening at home or out on the town.  This trip is a fund raiser for the Poetry Café, an activity of the Excelsior Springs Cultural Guild's Gatsby Days Celebration.  Deadline is February 14, 2015.

 2.  Enter the Gatsby Days Poetry Contest, with a cash prize of $50 or a complimentary trip on the Poetry Cafe' Bus Tour.  Deadline is March 1, 2015.  We encourage you to read your poem during Gatsby Days on April 25, 1:00 p.m. at the Excelsior Springs Museum and Archives.
 For more information and to register for these events, go to       © 2015 photograph by Denise Low