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



Sunday, February 1, 2015

Myrne Roe's poem "The Widow"

The Widow

With stooped shoulders she stands 
below a gray sky dome 
that sits on far flung flatness
winter grass brown. 
She wonders where is the sun?
Silence is interrupted 
only by bursts of icy wind’s shriek and moan
that haunt the barren space
she wants to but cannot leave.
In time sunlight descends
as bits and pieces of gold.
The wind becomes
kindly whispers, mild breezes.
On the horizon geese appear.
Whirligig wings fly them closer
until she hears their raucous call
to follow their direction,
to be home by spring.
Myrne Roe was one of the outstanding participants in the Denise Low "Putting on the Mask of History" poetry workshop conducted Jan. 27, 2015, at Watermark Books. This poem is from that workshop. Roe is the editor of Radiating Like a Stone: Wichita Women and the 1970s Feminist Movement (Wichita: Watermark Books, 2011). Roe is a former teacher, congressional staff directory, university public relations administrator, and nationally syndicated columnist.

© 2015 “The Widow” by Myrne Roe
© 2015 Blog and photography by Denise Low



Sunday, December 14, 2014


The Kansas City Star includes poetry among its priorities in reviewing, a rare opportunity, through the year, to learn of new works by contemporary versifiers. I feel lucky to be able to contribute as a regular reviewer and as a compiler of this list. Nine of the one-hundred 2014 Notable KC Star books are poetry:

Ask Me: 100 Essential Poems by William Stafford (Graywolf), Blood Lyric, by Katie Ford (Graywolf), Book of Hours by Kevin Young (Knopf).  Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Graywolf), Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Gluck (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Put This on, Please by William Trowbridge (Red Hen), Wolf Centos by Simone Muench (Sarabande), Woman With a Gambling Mania by Catherine Anderson (Mayapple), Collected Haiku of Yosa Buson translated by W.S. Merwin and Takako Lento (Copper Canyon).

Compilers of this list are: Darryl Levings (KC Star books editor), Steve Paul (former KC Star books editor and editorial staff), Brian Burnes (KC Star columnist), Edward M. Eveld (KC Star); and regular KC Star reviewers: Kevin Canfield, Liz Cook, Jeffrey Ann Goudie, Anne Kniggendorf, Denise Low, Christine Pivovar, Sebastian Stockman and Steve Weinberg. University of Missouri-Kansas City English Department members consulted are: Hadara Bar-Nadav, Christie Hodgen and Whitney Terrell. The list includes fiction, nonfiction, and verse. See the entire listing of 100 Notable Books with commentary:

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jackalope Flash Fiction by Denise Low


Jaq leans up against the “Ride a Jackalope to Trinidad” billboard and soaks in the warm sun. Wind whistles under the frame, but this is mostly a sheltered spot. She slides into the grass and dozes.

When she rouses, no telling how long she has slept. She looks across the scrubby junipers toward Raton Pass. This is the Santa Fe Trail, and before that it was a game trail, although history books will credit only human species, and then only Europeans.

What rough country. Old volcano cones dot across the horizon like chess pieces on a disorganized checkerboard. Other ridges flow rhythmically into tilted edges of mountains. A few stone wall ruins remain, perhaps Pueblo, and the arch of an abandoned Spanish church. Farther upstream, a Raven circles.

In the valley she notices movement, then sees smooth leaps of two antelopes, their ebony-black pronghorns well defined against pale grass. Good to know the ‘lopes still own part of the homeland.

Back by the highway, a white cross rises above an informal shrine of tinsel roses. Here someone died in a car accident, a reminder of time passing, as much as the extinct volcanoes. A fading photograph of a young man’s face, framed in white wood, stares West into eternity.

Jaq looks behind her at the garish billboard poster. “We Never Sleep!” says a grinning cartoon wolf. “Stay the Night.” The Jackalope next to the Wolf wears a saddle, and it walks down the highway, one foot raised.

Jaq looks back at the subdued greens of the winter foothills. The raven tilts and starts a new spiral against clouds. In a blink, it all could return to primal void. Or not.

Jaq smells the piny mountain scent one last time. She stands up against the saddled Jackalope image, and it is exactly her size. She stretches to fit the silhouette. She raises her foot to mirror the poster and tweaks her left ear to fit. It is when she matches the two-dimensional Jackalope’s grin that she suddenly loses consciousness.

© 2014 Denise Low. First published in Yellow Medicine Review. All rights reserved. Contact kansaspoetry [at] gmail for permissions and queries.
 Below is a link to "Jackalope Walks into an Indian Bar, first published in Cream City Review, nominated for a Pushcart Prize by CCR, 2014.