Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dec. 4, Thursday: Francisco Aragon Reads at Park College, 6:30 pm

Francisco Aragón is the author of, Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press) and editor of The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (University of Arizona Press). His poems and translations (from the Spanish) have appeared in various anthologies and journals. The founding editor of Momotombo Press, he directs Letras Latinas—the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Read his article about The Wind Shifts at: .

Love Poem by Francisco Aragón

Just let the San Andreas
stay put, keeping this tunnel
intact, enough to amble

out of it, past Louie’s Dim
Sum a Saturday afternoon,
breeze detectable off

the bay—visible in the distance,
carrying with it the smells
of open air markets:

crab freshly caught
and seahorses piled
in bins along Stockton...

or Jack, strolling out of the tube
connecting Polk Gulch
and North Beach—on his way

to Aquatic Park to spread
the Sporting Green
on his favorite patch of grass...

He is ferrying the portable
radio to his ear
listening for the count

in the bottom of the ninth
at Candlestick,
begins to smooth

the pages with his palms
before he sitsto keep it dry:
the split seat of his pants

for Jack Spicer (1925–1965)

© 2004, Francisco Aragón
This poem first appeared in
Jacket #26.

The reading features an introduction by The Latino Writers Collective, based in the Kansas City metropolitan area, organizes and coordinates projects for the larger community, especially to showcase national and local Latino writers and provide role models and instruction to Latino youth. Its mission is to foster an environment where the voices of Latino students, blue collar workers, professionals, and homemakers can finally be heard, sharing their experience and vision with a broad audience. Performing embers of the Collective include José Faus; Linda Rodriguez; Maria Vazquez Boyd; Gabriela M. Lemmons; and Gloria Martinez Adams. Work by members of the Collective appears in the recently published anthology, Primera Pagina.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

England seeks a new poet laurate

Andrew Motion will end his 10-year tenure as poet laureate of Great Britain. He gives this advice to the next person who will hold this job. The selection procedure is in process.

Between the lines: Andrew Motion's advice to the next poet laureate, Wednesday November 26 2008 00.01 GMT
The Guardian,

"Be warned. If you interpret the job as I have done - that being poet laureate means not just writing poems but trying to champion poetry - you will find there is an unimaginable difference between leading a relatively private life and the public life suddenly required of you. It is not just about having to get up early to appear on the Today programme. It is everything that comes with having your life picked over.
"Be aware of the almost continual slew of requests to do or write this or that. It took me a while to work out what I could and should say no to. Part of the job, of course, is that the poet is required to write on public occasions. These poems can be difficult to write; left-handed poems written with a right hand, so to speak. They have a tendency to excite news editors to ring people up until they can find someone to say how much they dislike them - which is far from easy to deal with. The royal poems I have written I think belong in a slightly different place from my normal stream of work, which isn't to say I disown them. They were particular responses to particular moments.
"Do not wear yourself out. Keep enough time for your own writing. That is not just a question of getting up an hour earlier; it means the more difficult task of preserving staring-off time, thinking time. The laureateship takes over your life. An American publication described it as "a double-edged chalice". A ridiculous mixed metaphor, but true enough. There are so many pressures, exposures, demands and wearinesses. But it is also a post full of opportunities to do good things for poetry. What I am proudest of is the establishment of the online Poetry Archive, where a million pages of poetry are read each month. I couldn't have done it without being poet laureate; I couldn't have raised the money or had the ear of people in government.
When people say that the post is hopelessly outmoded - well, in a way it is. But it creates the chance to do things for poetry that are unique. I have enjoyed it. But I am looking forward to enjoying a little more peace, and a little more privacy."
• Andrew Motion, speaking to Charlotte Higgins

Thursday, November 20, 2008


For further information about artist Thomas Pecore Weso's display sponsored by the Lawrence Corporation for the Advancement of the Visual Arts, see:

For purchase information, see

Mark Doty Wins National Book Award for Poetry

Mark Doty, professor at University of Houston, lives in New York City. He has
seven books of poetry and three books of prose. This book collects his poems in one volume. His blog is at .

from Fire to Fire by Mark Doty

His music, Charles writes,
makes us avoidable.
I write: emissary of evening.

We’re writing poems about last night’s bat.
Charles has stripped the scene to lyric,
while I’m filling in the tale: how,

when we emerged from the inn,
an unassuming place in the countryside
near Hoarwithy, not far from the Wye,

two twilight mares in a thorn-hedged field
across the road—clotted cream
and raw gray wool, vaguely above it all—

came a little closer. Though
when we approached they ignored us
and went on softly tearing up audible mouthfuls,

so we turned in the other direction,
toward Lough Pool, a mudhole scattered with sticks
beneath an ancient conifer’s vast trunk.

Then Charles saw the quick ambassador
fret the spaces between boughs
with an inky signature too fast to trace.

We turned our faces upward,
trying to read the deepening blue
between black limbs. And he said again,

There he is! Though it seemed only
one of us could see the fluttering pipistrelle
at a time—you’d turn your head to where

he’d been, no luck, he’d already joined
a larger dark. There he is! Paul said it,
then Pippa. Then I caught the fleeting contraption

speeding into a bank of leaves,
and heard the high, two-syllabled piping.
But when I said what I’d heard,

no one else had noticed it, and Charles said,
Only some people can hear their frequencies.
Fifty years old and I didn’t know

I could hear the tender cry of a bat
—cry won’t do: a diminutive chime
somewhere between merriment and weeping,

who could ever say? I with no music
to my name save what I can coax
into a line, no sense of pitch,

heard the night’s own one-sided conversation.
What to make of the gift? An oddity,
like being double-jointed, or token

of some kinship to the little Victorian handbag
dashing between the dim bulks of trees?
Of course the next day we begin our poems.

Charles considers the pipistrelle’s music navigational,
a modest, rational understanding of what
I have decided is my personal visitation.

Is it because I am an American that I think the bat came
especially to address me, who have the particular gift
of hearing him? If he sang to us, but only I

heard him, does that mean he sang to me?
Or does that mean I am a son of Whitman,
while Charles is an heir of Wordsworth,

albeit thankfully a more concise one?
Is this material necessary or helpful to my poem,
even though Charles admires my welter

of detail, my branching questions?
Couldn’t I compose a lean,
meditative evocation of what threaded

over our wondering heads,
or do I need to do what I am doing now,
and worry my little aerial friend

with a freight not precisely his?
Does the poem reside in experience
or in self-consciousness

about experience? Shh,
says the evening near the Wye.
Enough, say the hungry horses.

Listen to my poem, says Charles.
A word in your ear, says the night.

Monday, November 17, 2008

AD ASTRA POETRY PROJECT #26: Michael L. Johnson

Dear Poetry Friends,
As I drove into Kansas along the turnpike this week, I saw the sign “Welcome Pheasant Hunters.” Fall is hunting season, and I remember well the family friend who took me along with his sons to learn shooting and hunting. I loved it.

Today’s poet, Michael L. Johnson, also takes readers along on a hunting trip, and along the way, he helps us reflect more deeply about our human identity. Johnson has taught creative writing at the University of Kansas for almost 40 years, and I appreciate all his good works.

Warmly, Denise Low



Michael L. Johnson, a longtime poet, also lectures and writes about the American West. His new prose book, one of the best on the subject, is Hunger for the Wild: America’s Obsession with the Untamed West (2007 Kansas Notable Book). In addition, Johnson has written about the cultural history of this region in verse form. He also publishes prose and poetry about art, culture, and many other topics. He has been a professor at the University of Kansas since 1969, teaching creative writing and literature. Since he was born in next-door Missouri, he knows this area well.

Hunting is one of this region’s traditions, and “Hunting Again” is a terse sketch about the stalking process, written as though readers were in the field with the narrator. The rhythmic pace is regular and efficient. Discomfort of the expedition is noted in details—the “heft” of the gun; the prick of “burrs” and the “clutch of underbrush.” But Johnson does not leave readers with a flat image. In the second stanza, he digs more deeply into the experience. As the hunter seeks to take another being’s life, he also confronts his own mortality, his own “uncertain ghost.” He confronts a memory “so deep,” which is the underlying nature of humankind: We are predators, and this poem does not make apologies for this survival skill.

for Pete

Things are different out here,
our ears tuned for a flush,
eyes set for scat or tracks.
Our soft hands heft oiled steel,
part branches, pluck off burrs.
Our legs ache from mud’s tug,
rough clutch of underbrush.
Our noses trust the dog’s
to discover the ghosts
of birds, where they are or
only where they might be.

We remember so deep
having done this before:
in the stalk, in the quick
moments of violence,
we discover ourselves,
our own uncertain ghosts.

Education: Michael Johnson received his BA from Rice University (English 1965); MA from Stanford University (English 1967), and PhD from Rice University (English 1968).
Career: The poet has published seven books of poetry: From Hell to Jackson Hole: A Poetic History of the American West (Bridge House Books 2001, Ben Franklin Award from the Publishers Marketing Association), Violence and Grace: Poems about the American West (Cottonwood Press 1993), Ecphrases (Woodley Press 1989), Familiar Stranger (Flowerpot Mountain Press 1983), The Unicorn Captured (Cottonwood Review Press 1980), and Dry Season (Cottonwood Review Press 1977). He has published 1000+ poems in Westview, California Quarterly, Illinois Quarterly, Northeast Journal, Portland Review, others. He has presented many poetry lecture and craft workshops at conferences.
____________________________________________________________________________________________© 2008 Denise Low, AAPP 26 © 1993. Michael Johnson “Hunting Again.”

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pittsburg Editors Revive Little Balkans Review

In 1980, Gene DeGruson, a special collections librariy curator at Pittsburg State University, established the Little Balkans Review. Its main purpose was to highlight history and arts of the southeast Kansas region. Coal mines attracted immigrants from Italy, France, Wales, and English in the 19th century. This was an area where unions evolved, and where Emanuel Haldeman-Julius (1888-1951) published Little Blue Books and the Socialist periodical Appeal to Reason.

Ted Watts, Al Ortolani, Jr., Wayne Bockelman, Tom Burns, Mike Hogard, and John Laflen are now calling for submissions of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photographs, and artwork. They write in their letter of solicitation: "Prime consideration is given to works by Kansans and former Kansoans, as well as work set in the Little Balkans. However, consideration is also given to work iwth similar regional flare. Preference is given for non-fiction subjects related to the Little Balkans. At least half of the poetry of each issue will be devoted to poets wh have limited previous publication." For further information, contact LittleBalkansReview@gmail or write 909 S. Olive, Pittsgurg, KS 66762.

This is a living memorial to DeGruson, who devoted his career to the culture of his region and to betterment of average citizens. Another of his contributions was discovery and editing of The Lost First Edition of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Denise Low & Paul Hotvedt & Josh Kendall Multimedia Project 3 VOICES


Come and join us at the Lawrence Arts Center, 7 pm. Thursday, Dec. 4th for a release party for the fine arts edition and DVD of Three Voices, a collaboration of painter Paul Hotvedt, poet Denise Low, and videographer Josh Kendall. For video preview, see:

On Dec. 4, Denise Low will be reading selected works, with Josh Conner and Brandon McCune providing the music. Hotvedt's paintings will be on display. Copies of 3 Voices will be available.

This multimedia package includes Denise Low's responses to landscape images by Paul Hotvedt. Text includes prose poems and an accompanying essay about creative dialogue between memory and landscape. Hotvedt's images include digitized images, cards, and videographic interpretations. Included in the DVD are paintings, readings, and interviews with Hotvedt and Low about the creative process. Packaging is by Deb Dillon, and music by Josh Conner and Brandon McCune.

Advance copies are available for sale on Paul Hotvedt's website: .

New York Times Election Day Poems Are Available

Mary Jo Bang, John Ashbery, and others wrote poems for Election Day, published in this morning's paper. Here is one link. Here's to occasional poems. And best to all on this first day of a new phase for our Union.

Monday, November 3, 2008


JAMES O. McCRARY (1941 - )

James McCrary celebrates recent publication of his collected chapbooks All That (Moscow, Idaho: ManyPenny Press). He first came to Lawrence in 1965 and mostly has lived in Kansas since, except for short spans on the coasts. In the sixties he was an active poet associated with Ed Dorn, David Ignatow, Ken Irby, and John Moritz, with publications in Grist magazine. In 1990 he began teaching poetry at the Lawrence Arts Center and curated several reading series, including the Poetry Slam. He also worked with Burroughs Communications.

McCrary writes a minimalist verse that follows thought so closely that it becomes an abstraction. His writings have much in common with abstract paintings. John Fowler writes of this poet that “The simplicity of language, the sparseness of the word on the page, the way a few words stretched my mind across big spaces, all this is here.” McCrary’s years in Kansas have marked his language, as poet Charlie Plymell notes that this poet’s resembles “a Kansan who doesn't want to waste any words.” This minimal approach creates emphasis.

McCrary’s writings are like gesture drawings of artists, where ink outlines horizons and encloses balloons of space. The first line of this poem sets up the philosophical framework, questions about “out there.” Then the words suggest the very basics of thunderclouds gathering: clouds, movement, “electric,” “a bit of wet,” and then more movement. Then the narrator compares weather to thought, which is “there” and “here” at once or “t(here)”.


Thinking about out there
the clouds gather
push east and south
to here
where hopefully they will
do what they do
covering both sun and land
with the mass of them.

some electric
some noise
a bit of wet
then move on toward the
easy hills of west missouri
or simply dissipate and
reflect above the kansas river
where the loss is obvious

not much else is t(here)

Education: Jim McCrary received a BA in English (1987) and an MA in Creative Writing (1989), under David Bromige. Both degrees are from California State University-Sonoma. Career: The poet has five books of poetry: Coon Creek (Cottonwood Books, 1970), Edible Pets, (Tansy Books, 1987), West of Mass (Tansy Books, 1991), and All That (ManyPenny Books, 2008) . He has published a half dozen chapbooks. He has published in over 100 magazines, anthologies, and online venues, including Exquisite Corpse, Caliban, and First Intensity. He edited his own ‘zine Smelt Money, print-version blog. He received a Phoenix Award. ____________________________________________________________________________________________© 2008 Denise Low, AAPP 24 © 1994 James McCrary, “7/25/91, Poems of the Place”