Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Lawrence Public Library interviews Ks. Poet Laureate Eric McHenry

Adam Hummell interviews the current Kansas Poet Laureate for the Lawrence Public Library, in anticipation of his reading. Thanks to Eric for the kind mention of Kanas poets, including former poets laureate (Jonathan Holden, Denise Low, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Wyatt Townley) and Kansas-connected poets Gwendolyn Brooks, William Stafford, and Albert Goldbarth. Thanks to Hummell for the insightful interview plus links. The interview begins:

“Language lovers of all ages are in for a treat this Thursday [Aug. 27, 2015] night: Eric McHenry, the current Kansas Poet Laureate, will be speaking at a special free event in the library auditorium at 7:00 pm. Along with being the author of the award-winning poetry collection, Potscrubber Lullabies, and the gleeful and heartwarming children’s picture book, Mommy, Daddy, Evan, Sage, McHenry is also Professor of Creative Writing at Washburn University, where I had the privilege of having him as both an adviser and instructor. I quickly found him to be one of the warmest, most intelligent people I’ve ever met. As a poet he is insightful, erudite, and playful; as an advisor and educator he was always approachable and encouraging, consistently brilliant, witty, and always engaging. . . “

For the full interview:

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Kenneth Irby Dies, July 30, 2015

Kenneth Lee Irby 1936-2015. Photo by Denise Low
I have been having so many memories of Ken this week. I first read his work in 1978, To Max Douglas, and it made me cry. I met him in the 80s when he moved back to Lawrence, and through the years he has been a poet impossible to ignore. How blessed I've been the last years to meet with him weekly at our poetini group--Pachamama's had $5 martini specials Thursday nights. Last summer, he and I were the only ones to show up several times, and what grand conversations we had. Yes, he drove me crazy some of the time, but then there was that unexpected sweetness within the tart, thick rind. Most of these are my photos. I don't mind if people use them, but please attribute them to me. The 1997 photo taken the old fashioned way is Ken at Lee Chapman's house. She and Monica (Now Nico) Peck were present. I cropped this photo for a 2007 online publication, the Ad Astra project.

Stan Lombardo, Ken Irby, unknown, Judy Roitman, photo by Denise Low
Ken, photo by Denise Low 1997

Ken, Denise Low, Wm. J. Harris, 2.14.14, photo by Tracy Rasmussen
Ken Irby, 2011 photo by Denise Low


Ken Irby, 2011, Photo Denise Low


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Denise Low Interviews Kenneth Irby: Podcast

Photo by Denise Low, 2011
Here is a link to my March, 2015 interview with Kenneth Irby, winner of the Shelley Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America. Although he was never at Black Mountain, he is closely associated with BM experimental poets and numbered several among his friends. William J. Harris writes about Irby for Jacket2, "Ken Irby should be ranked with such contemporary figures as Amiri Baraka, Robert Creeley, Lyn Hejinian, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan, and Rae Armantrout." See  Jacket2 for a collection of poems, letters, essays about his work, and miscellany.  This is one of the few online podcasts of Irby, and it will only be available for two weeks. After that, purchase it through the website. Many thanks to Angela Elam for editing the 1 1/2 hour interview into a program.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Denise Low Reviews Richard Siken and Amy Gerstler for the KC Star

Richard Siken's War of the Foxes (Copper Canyon) and Amy Gerstler's Scattered at Sea (Penguin) are both intense, well written books. The latter begins: "What to do with gazillions of factoids accumulating in the Age of the Internet? A Shakespearean sonnet cannot present Facebook news feed in a mere 14 lines. Or can it? Poet Amy Gerstler, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, has found a way to celebrate the infinite branching of knowledge. She collages it in exuberant, endless scrapbooks interspersed with her own life story. She makes rich poetry. Divisions in the book are “Kissing,” “Womanish,” “Dust of Heirs, Dust of Ancestors,” “What I Did With Your Ashes” and “Only at Certain Sacred Locations.” The last considers reincarnation and the journeys of “A Terribly Sentimental Fork,” among other surprises. Each of Gerstler’s poems has a personal voice, overlaid with a Babel of images."

Read more here:
See more of my reviews at:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Denise Low reviews Jo McDougall's Collected Poems for the KC Star

The Kansas City Star generously supports area writers. This week they published my review of Jo McDougall's new collected poems, which begins:
""Jo McDougall has inspired readers with her work for more than 30 years. Her collected poems, In the Home of the Famous Dead, presents all her books, from 1983 through 2010. McDougall, a 20-year resident of the Kansas City area, now resides in Arkansas. Both places recur in the writings. Each poem is an essential lesson about how to find joy in this beautiful but blemished existence.
"McDougall teaches readers how to view landscapes. She presents stark panoramas, then adds a human dimension. In “Driving Alone,” the briefly sketched setting evokes enormity: “Sunset takes the light, the sound.” The title sets up the drama of loneliness as the poem develops a story: “She reaches for the radio, / already on.” This woman is adrift in a car. The solitary journey is familiar, a shared metaphor for life itself, and also a very real emotion. . . ." 
Purchase online or through the University of Arkansas Press:
In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems, by Jo McDougall (250 pages; University of Arkansas Press; $24.95, $49.95 cloth)

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Susan Rieke’s Ireland’sWeather mixes all the mythic beauty of Ireland with clear-eyed observations. Contemporary sights mingle with ageless natural wonders. Even a commonplace experience like dawn becomes extraordinary as  the poet notices how “the sun tilts with a side grin.”  Travel with this writerly companion to a landscape populated with robins, crows, bees, and “old demons.” The journey will change everything.

Cover art, Thomas F. Weso, art:, “Blue Storm,” private collection, Washington D.C. 2 illustrations by Thomas F. Weso. Published by Mammoth Publications. ISBN 978-1-939301-77-2
A Moon Slice
A moon slice opens evening’s gate, waning
into clouds. It cannot blaze like the sun,
but quiet night counts on her cold.
Velia, witch of the wood, weaves magic.
The moon creates again a light waltz
whose steps never fail.                                
A land of few sunrises and sunsets shouts
for attention when the moon mounts the sky.
Crows form a front team.
They command respect for this white goddess
who obliterates gray
and dark recesses of memory.
Order online  $10.00, the Susan Rieke author tab. To order multiple copies or for inquires, contact mammothpubs [at]  Order by mail: 1916 Stratford Road, Lawrence, KS 66044.  

Monday, June 15, 2015


The book launch for Jeff Tigchelaar’s first book, Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour, will be June 19, 2015, 7 The Raven Book Store, 6 E 7th St, Lawrence, Kansas. Do not miss this fine poet if you are in the area!

I first met Jeff Tigchelaar when he won the prestigious Langston Hughes literary award for poetry in 2010. As a judge, I saw a good sampling of his writings. At the presentation, I asked about his name, which I could not spell worth a darn—it is Dutch for “tile-layer.” This demystified the name even if it created more questions about Dutch triplings of consonants and doublings of the same vowel. Tigchelaar, born and raised in Michigan, is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and stay-at-home dad. After residing in Lawrence, Kansas, he is moving with his family to West Virginia (2015).

His writing is deceptively simple with sophisticated line breaks that tilt his ideas one way and then another. He can begin with ordinary moments, like take-off on a runway, and subvert the normalcy into surreal images. “Fly Frontier,” below, reframes flight and creates further drama, as though the passenger carrier were a space “capsule.” Then he shifts to the bizarre image of a “yawping wolf,” an ordinary logo, perhaps, but seen in context of a death-defying flight, it adds a sinister tone. Tigchelaar keeps pushing the nightmarish quality of the experience as the plane is “drastically tilting” and the “slide” wing could lead straight to disaster. The narrator sidesteps the drop into an abyss at the end with an adroit shift to the conditional, the what-if. He finds “light” at the end of “darkness.” For another day, the poet and the reader both escape mortality. The title, the “New Frontier” of John F. Kennedy as well as the “Final Frontier” of Star Trek, resonates with layers of cultural suggestions.

Fly Frontier

I’m in a manmade capsule hurtling through the sky
so if I die I probably deserve it.
It’s early
and still dark, but Kansas City
is all lit up. There’s a yawping
wolf outside my window
painted on the wingtip,
eyes closed, muzzle up, how whimsical.
No, how foreboding. And why is it so
choppy? God, we’ve only
just taken off. Now we’re drastically tilting
and the plane wing looks like a slide.
If this were a dream, I’d step out
and plunge into the darkness of a Monday
and fall until everything was light.

                                                © 2015 Jeff Tigchelaar, reprinted with permission

Full disclosure—I blurbed this book, and I’m happy Eric McHenry, Jim Daniels, and Wyatt Townley joined me in support of this fine writer. My comments were: “Jeff Tigchelaar speaks directly to his readers about politics, moral choices, and the beauty he finds in an imperfect world. This debut collection shows a poet ready to suggest solutions. Join him as he makes a difference.” Yes, Tigchelaar is a poet with lots of layers working at once. Woodley Press of Topeka published Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour, available online for $12.00 and at the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence.

Tigchelaar blogs for XYZ Topeka Magazine and publishes poetry widely. His poems have been published in Kansas, Canada, Germany, and Wales, as well as on bar coasters. Journal publications include Pleiades, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, Flyway, Fugue, Rhino, North American Review and The Laurel Review, and anthologies such as Best New Poets 2011, Verse Daily, A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, and New Poetry from the Midwest. His work received a fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. His poem “One Way of Looking at Thirteen Blackbirds” was reviewed at  More information is at his website, and
His blog Stay-at-Home Pop Culture, is published by XYZ Magazine in Topeka