Wednesday, July 30, 2008


BARRY BARNES (1960 - )

Here is a poet who performs poetry as well as he writes poetry. I first heard him read at a poetry slam fifteen years ago, and I was impressed with how much substance he put into his spoken word creations. He reads and performs often in northeast Kansas, often in support of good causes like Art Togeau and the Langston Hughes Literary Awards.
To hear Barry Barnes, attend a performance August 1st 6pm-8pm at the Union Pacific Railroad Depot, 402 N. 2nd St. Also appearing are the Bopaphonics, Zydeco Tougeau, Matt Fowler, and myself. You can download spoken word and music at

Barnes draws on the poetic tradition and enlivens it each time he performs. At a recent performance, I heard Barnes recite from memory a number of poems by Langston Hughes, Robert Burns, and Shakespeare. This writer also appears on spoken word recordings that improvise on Hughes’s poetry. He writes about very contemporary themes, like Hughes, yet at the same time and on the same stage, he reaches back to previous centuries.
“Kicked to the Curb” is a rarity in American English verse: a successful social protest poem. The straightforward dialect is made powerful by parallel yet varied comments. This is not a simple anti-war poem—the poet lists some plausible reasons for the conflict in the second stanza. The costs of war, nonetheless, are clear. A political poem shares qualities with narrative poetry: embedded within these images is a storyline. Finally, this is a moral comment that protests the treatment of returning veterans, especially those with war wounds. The title has shock-effect, or hyperbole (exaggeration) to move readers to action.


An army of amputees
return from overseas.
Traumatic brain injuries:
can’t hear, can’t think, can’t speak, can’t see.
post traumatic stress syndrome
can’t concentrate, can’t eat, can’t sleep.
Unexplained disorders and diseases
and what for?
What is the reason for this war?

Revenge for 9-11.
To free Iraqis.
War on terror.
Cheap oil.

When all our soldiers finally come home
will they be forgotten and kicked to the curb?

Education: Barry Barnes is a life-long resident of Lawrence, where he attended public schools.
Career: This poet’s book of poetry, We Sleep in a Burning House, is from Mammoth Publications (2008, ). He adapted poetry of Langston Hughes to musical form for Plain and Simple Truth (Chameleon Productions 2007). He appears with the Bopaphonics on these Chameleon spoken-word productions: Let America Be America Again (2006), Channeling Langston (2005), P-Bop (2004). Super Cow is another ensemble CD. His poems appear in the compilation Kaw! Kaw! Kaw! (Gonk Monster and Chameleon Productions 2000). Barnes produced CDs: Blue in a Red State (with Stacey Fox 2003) and Straight Out of Kansas (2005). He works for Hallmark in Lawrence. See .
____________________________________________________________ © 2008 Denise Low, AAPP19 © 2008 Barry Barnes, “Kicked to the Curb.” © 2007 Charles Goff III, photograph.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Writer's Digest Interview with Denise Low: Link

Hi, I'm drawing your attention to the blog of Robert Brewer, Poetic Asides, which is a great resource for writers. He has discussion topics like how to write a biography for editors and other practical advice. He honored me with a request for an interview, which is here:

Here is a sample of the interview:
"So, what it's like being a State Poet Laureate.......?
"Being poet laureate has helped me in so many ways. I can now articulate more clearly how my role as a poet is community-based. All poets are advocates for the arts. All poets work with a centuries-old tradition of wisdom. We add our own pieces to that tradition, from our time, and that great river keeps flowing forward. As a poet laureate, I have become more excited about younger poets and their upcoming roles of spokespersons for their generations. All poets are revolutionaries, creating “it” new each morning."

Sunday, July 13, 2008


Diane Glancy is the new Ad Astra Poetry Project selection. If you live in the Kansas City area, you may want to see her and Patricia Lawson read their poetry on Tuesday, July 15, at the Johnson County Central Resource Library, 7 pm. The library is at 9875 W. 87th St., Overland Park, Kansas. Her recent book Asylum in the Grasslands (University of Arizona Press) is a finalist for the William Rockhill Nelson Awards.

Diane Glancy, of Prairie Village, Kansas, has German/English and Cherokee heritage. She writes about her family, American Indian histories, and the Midwest. Her novel Pushing the Bear is one of the best known accounts of the Trail of Tears. Her novel Stone Heart is about Sacajawea.
She often blends experimental forms with strong storytelling elements. “Indian Summer,” for example, tells the story of a farm break-up, but also it suggests the season’s changes and historic changes. She uses a pastiche of images to suggest the process of time.
The images—farmhouse, leaves, bugs, cornfields, dress, tools, and barn—appear on a fictitious country road. The narrator drives by them and sees an “open sea” and finally the “white iceberg” barn. The barn’s isolation is highlighted by the comparison to ice, and also the narrator is alone within time and “migrating daily.”


There’s a farm auction up the road.
Wind has its bid in for the leaves.
Already bugs flurry the headlights
between cornfields at night.
If this world were permanent,
I could dance full as the squaw dress
on the clothesline.
I would not see winter
in the square of white yard-light on the wall.
But something tugs at me.
The world is at a loss and I am part of it
migrating daily.
Everything is up for grabs
like a box of farm tools broken open.
I hear the spirits often in the garden
and along the shore of corn.
I know this place is not mine.
I hear them up the road again.
This world is a horizon, an open sea.
Behind the house, the white iceberg of the barn.

Education: B.A. in English, University of Missouri, 1964; M.A., Central State University, 1983; M.F.A., University of Iowa Writers Workshop, 1988.
Career: Diane Glancy has written over 20 books of poetry from Michigan State, Salt, University of Arizona and other presses; over 20 books of prose; plus a number of plays produced and published. She is professor of English at Macalester College, where she is taking sabbatical/early retirement. She has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Lannan foundation, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and others.
________________________________________________________________ © 2008 Denise Low, AAPP18 © 2007 Diane Glancy,”Indian Summer” in Asylum in the Grasslands (University of Arizona Press). © 2005 Denise Low, photograph.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


GORDON PARKS (1912 - 2006)

Gordon Parks, a native of Ft. Scott, Kansas, is best known as a photographer and filmmaker, but he also wrote books of poetry. In an interview he claimed he liked writing poetry best, but making a living directed his energies to other fields. Like Parks, many arts practitioners find writing poetry helps them to learn techniques that adapt to other uses. Parks was adept at screenwriting, fiction, memoir, essays, and narrative photography as well as poetry. He published 20 books.

The poem “The Funeral” shows Parks’ ability to compress a story into a few strong images. Homecoming is an archetypal situation, like the biblical Prodigal Son’s return. With three imaginative—or “leaping” (to use Robert Bly’s term)— comparisons, the poet shows the shift from childhood perspective to adulthood. The “mountains,” “raging rivers,” and “wide roads” the narrator knew as a boy have become “hills,” “streams,” and “a crooked path of dust.” Like a sonnet, this poem pivots near the end, to the true drama of mortality. The narrator contemplates not only his childhood home, but also the final home, a resting place in a cemetery. The depiction of his father as a “giant” and the weight of the coffin imply a larger story about character. The mythic father kept his exaggerated status to both the child and the man who narrates this. This appears to be an autobiographical poem, but even when the facts and intent are autobiographical, the artifice of verse makes the narrator into a somewhat fictionalized character who speaks directly to readers through carefully chosen words.


After many snows I was home again.
Time had whittled down to mere hills the great mountains
of my childhood.
Raging rivers I once swam trickled now like gentle streams
and the wide road curving on to China or Kansas City
or perhaps Calcutta
had withered to a crooked path of dust
ending abruptly at the county burial ground.
Only the giant that was my father remained the same.
A hundred strong men strained beneath his coffin
when they bore him to his grave.

Education: Gordon Parks attended public schools in Ft. Scott, Kansas, and Minneapolis.
Career: Parks' writing credits include The Learning Tree (1963). Collections of poetry (some with photographs) are: A Poet and His Camera (Viking 1968), Whispers of Intimate Things (Viking 1971), In Love (Lippincott 1971), Moments Without Proper Names (Viking 1975), Arias of Silence (Bulfinch Press 1994), Glimpses Toward Infinity (Little, Brown 1996), A Star for Noon: An Homage to Women in Images, Poetry and Music (Bulfinch 2000), Eyes with Winged Thoughts (Atria 2006). The Gordon Parks Center is
__________________________________________________________________ © 2008 Denise Low, AAPP17 © 2008 Gordon Parks Foundation “The Funeral.”