Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Deer Season, Again

In an unmown yard of dry grass, I miss
the deer themselves, but instead find tamped
outline of their bodies and inhale their faint
aroma. I see that secret bower where they press
together all night and breathe. Moonlight speckles
their hides. By sunrise, like stars, they disappear.
But since they are shamans, their spirits remain:
Bent straw delineates glyphs—epic stories
as they step backwards into my memory.

Denise Low
Solstice 2007
Also, see other holiday verse in the Dec. 22 Kansas City Star, with illustration by Gentry Mullen:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

John A. Moritz services

Lawrence Journal World
Memorial visitation services for John A. Moritz III, 61, Lawrence, will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home. Cremation is planned.Mr. Moritz died Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007, at his home.He was born Sept. 23, 1946, in Gary, Ind., the son of John A. II and Hallie L. Zapp Moritz. He graduated from high school in Chicago in 1964 and later attended Kansas University.Mr. Moritz was a printer and publisher, and founded Tansy Bookstore on the KU campus. He later worked for Kansas Key Press and House of Usher. He worked for Kingston Printing at the time of his death. He was also an accomplished poet and had published many books, the most recent of which was “Mayaland/Catfish Frenzy.”He married Margaret Capolello. They divorced. He married Helen Kelly. They divorced. He married Sharon G. Hoffman on July 16, 1992, in Sitka, Alaska. She survives, of the home.Other survivors include three stepsons, Curtis and Kevin Dillon, both of Lawrence, and Christopher Knief, Madison, Wis.; a stepdaughter, DeeDee Leon, Lawrence; a brother, David Moritz, Gainesville, Fla.; and six grandchildren.The family suggests memorials to Lawrence Memorial Hospital Oncology or Radiation Department, sent in care of the funeral home.Online condolences may be sent at http://www.rumsey-yost.com/.

Monday, December 17, 2007

John Moritz 1946-2007

Services are pending for John Moritz--poet, editor, publisher, reading series sponsor. Former editor of Tansy Press, Moritz was himself a fine poet with tuned ear and eye. He sponsored a reading series in the 1980s that brought Tom Raworth, Joanne Kyger, Robin Blaeser, and others to Lawrence. For each reading he published a broadside. His Tansy in the 1970s brought important texts into the world, including works of Ken Irby. He entered into the world of text as a practitioner, admirer, midwife, responder.

He was smart and funny. I remember him and wife Sharon consoling me after a divorce. I remember great meals and parties at his house. He leaves me much to think about.


Friday, December 14, 2007

Dear Friends of Poetry:
If you live in the Lawrence area, you can hear Ken Irby read at 7 pm tonight, Dec. 14, at 6 Gallery, 716 1/2 Mass. St. He has been an inspiration to me for decades and a dear friend. He urges us to look more closely at how we perceive and remember experience, both individually and collectively. He is an archeaologist of words. His recent book Studies is available from First Intensity Press, edited by Lee Chapman http://www.firstintensity.com/

Happy holidays, Denise Low


Photo by Denise Low, 1997

Kenneth Lee Irby (1936 - )

Ken Irby is a Kansas poet who practices projective verse, a form based on physical acts of speechmaking rather than British poetics. Charles Olson of Black Mountain College (1930s-1950s) taught that a line should be the length of a breath. In poetry like Irby’s, the words match human consciousness rather than creating a facsimile of reality. This “open field” style may suggest prose of William Faulkner or James Joyce more than Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Irby was not a student at Black Mountain, but he has had contacts with Black Mountain poets throughout his career. This direction in American writing connects to experimental forms now loosely called “Language” poetry.
Ed Dorn, a former visiting professor at the University of Kansas, was a student of Olson and close friend of Irby. In this elegy, written at Dorn’s death, Irby displaces his emotional grief with an image of farm animals in a bare pasture. The title’s season is near solstice, the darkest, most mysterious time of year, and also a time when losses are most sharply seen.
This poem begins with the animals viewed at a distance, as though they are almost beyond sight. The narrator sees them skewed by the distance—and also perhaps by grief—so that they appear to be performing on hind legs, “a real dog and pony show.” Irby sets this familiar term amongst the more bizarre appearances of the domestic animals. Just when it seems he might explain himself and the soundless “musicians at the window,” he changes direction. He shifts from visual images to sounds—the rhyme between “cray” and “they.” The second section also shifts from animals to plants: “hedge apples” (or osage oranges) at pasture boundary and “night winter cray bushes.” Rather than resolve the poem with a resounding click, he opens it up to new questions.

[For Ed Dorn –2 Apr 1929 – 10 Dec 1999]

in the far back pasture animals have lined up in lament
dog goat pony horse and beyond them
a cow in its astronomical agility
a real dog and pony show
giving tribute back on their hind legs
musicians at the window
lacking the cock his call
the show of the world

along the fence rows in with the hedge apples
the night winter cray bushes are in bloom.
the cray? what are they?
that is their rhyme

Education: Kenneth Irby, born in Bowie, Texas, was raised in Ft. Scott, Kansas. He received an A.M. from Harvard University and M.L.S. from the University of California-Berkeley.
Career: Irby is an English professor at the University of Kansas. He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Copenhagen. He has awards from the Fund for Poetry and the Gertrude Stein Awards in Innovative American Poetry. His books include: Studies (First Intensity Press 2001), Ridge to Ridge (Other Wind Press 2001), Call Steps (Station Hill Press 1992), A Set (Tansy 1983), Orexis (Station Hill Press 1981), Catalpa (Tansy 1972), To Max Douglas (Tansy 1971).
© 2007 Denise Low, AAPP9. © Kenneth Irby “[For Ed Dorn]” from Studies: Cuts, Shots Takes, 2001. © 2007 Denise Low photo. A downloadable version is available from http://www.kansaspoets.com/

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Virtual Trip to Nigeria Over

Thanks to all who emailed and expressed sympathy for my hijacked email account. All is set aright. Denise Low

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Kansas Poet May Williams Ward Describes Carry A. Nation

Lana Myers in Newton, Kansas, is working on a book about Kansas poet May Williams Ward. She sent this quotation from Ward about meeting Carry Nation in 1901 at a fraternity house in Lawrence. This is from unpublished manuscript in the Wichita State University collections:

  • She was a large tall woman but had a rather motherly look when not engaged in one of her tirades. She had her hatchet in one hand and a Bible in the other, part of the time, but laid them both down on a table to walk up determinedly to two boys who were coming in the door just starting to douse their cigarettes. She snatched them from the boys’ mouths and held them up and out as if vermin, while she talked about their harmfulness and sinfulness. She told the girls that it would injure our children-to-be if we should dare to smoke, and we should even not marry a man who smoked, for heredity’s sake. . . . At one point, looking tired, she sat down momentarily and asked for a drink of water. "Nothing stronger, mind you," she said, almost with a twinkle.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


In 1972, Windflower Press published William Kloefkorn’s first book Alvin Turner as Farmer, which became a regional best seller. The publisher, Ted Kooser, later became U.S. Poet Laureate, and Kloefkorn became lifetime poet laureate for Nebraska in 1982.

Kloefkorn’s verse, written in vernacular language, celebrates Great Plains life. He is one of the first writers, along with Kooser and others, to define a Midwestern voice. Born, raised, and educated in Kansas, he often writes about rural life with understated wit.Kloefkorn is especially a storyteller.

In this poem about Kansas character Carry Nation, he tells history from a young person’s point of view. Contrasts invigorate the story: the “full-fleshed” photograph breaks the wallpaper pattern. Mrs. Wilma Hunt sermonizes about morality as she destroys life. The devil appears, but then is set aside for Kool-Aid. The poet’s dead-pan delivery suggests a third presence: the open-eared listener who observes details, judges a tad, and chuckles at the absurd human condition—like an adult reader.


Carry A. Nation came into our house and filled it
With her meagerness. She was hung full-fleshed
Against the flowered wallpaper of our living-room,
And Mrs. Wilma Hunt, who brought her, gave each
Of us a little wooden hatchet. “John Barleycorn
Is the Devil,” Mrs. Wilma Hunt said. And
by dropping worms head-
First into alcohol she taught us
To hate him. “Now let me tell
You,” she said, “about the LTL….”

She taught us the Loyal
Temperance Legion song, all of it, then killed
Another worm and served refreshments. Our house
Had never been so full. There were all of us, with
Carry on the wall-
Paper: Kool-Aid, Cookies, Song,
And several dead worms
Curled in alcohol.

Education: William Kloefkorn, was born in Attica, Kansas. He received a BA 1954 in English from Emporia State University and then served in the U.S. Marines. In 1956 he taught high school in Ellinwood, then returned to ESU for the MA (1958).
Career: Nebraska named Kloefkorn the State Poet, the equivalent of state poet laureate. He taught at Wichita State from 1958-1962 and Nebraska Wesleyan University from 1962 to 1997. He is active as a writer and performer of poetry. His books—over two dozen—include poetry, fiction, memoir, fiction, and children’s literature.
© 2007 Denise Low, AAPP8. © 1974 William C. Kloefkorn, “LTL.” © 2002 Nathan Lambrecht, photograph.
A downloadable version is available for non-commercial use from www.kansaspoets.com

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Gloria Vando (1936 - )

Gloria Vando Hickok has enriched the Kansas City area literary community since moving to Johnson County in 1980. She founded Helicon Nine, a nationally recognized women’s arts magazine, which then became a press, Helicon Nine Editions. In addition, she and her husband Bill Hickok co-founded The Writers Place, a literary arts center in Kansas City, Missouri. This poet combines such service with writing award-winning books.

Vando is a Nuyorican: a person of Puerto Rican heritage born in New York City. She layers this cultural perspective through her verses. Most of her poems begin with autobiographical moments, which then expand into global perspectives.

Narrative is a strong element in all of Vando’s works, and also history. She regales her readers with dramatic stories set in Sarajevo, Vietnam, Korea, San Juan, New York, and Kansas City. She personalizes political comment by adding emotional reactions to factual events. She also tells her own larger-than-life stories in well wrought verse.

“Orphans” is one of these stories. The fourteen-line poem follows an unrhymed sonnet pattern. The first eight lines set up the situation—death of a loveless parent—and then the poem shifts to the mother’s advice about grief. Acorns and wind are familiar images to Midwestern readers, and here these natural forces suggest wholeness. The last two lines are the sonnet’s couplet, with the surprising final chord—acceptance of “luck.” The mother empowers her orphaned (or fatherless) daughter by framing her within a larger cosmos.


When my father died, leaving me
distraught for never having known
him as father, as friend,
for never having known myself

as child of one whose eyes and mouth
and temperament were mine, my mother
cautioned me, told me not to mourn
what I perceived as loss: you and I

are daughters of the wind, she said,
you and I are fathers of our souls,
sprouting intact like seedlings
from two wind-borne acorns.

We thrive on luck, she said,
there is no father’s love in that.

Education: Vando was born in New York City and lived in Amsterdam and Paris. She received a BA from Texas A and I College and pursued graduate studies at Southampton College, Long Island.

Vando’s Promesas: Geography of the Impossible (1993) was a Walt Whitman finalist and won the Thorpe Menn Book Award. Shadows and Supposes (2002) won the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award and was named Best Poetry Book of 2003 by the Latino Hall of Fame.
_________________________________________________________________________________________© 2007 Denise Low, AAPP7. © 1993 “Orphans,” Gloria Vando, from Promeses, Arte Público Press.
A downloadable version is available for non-commercial use from

Tuesday, October 30, 2007



Jonathan Holden, first Kansas poet laureate, has lived in Manhattan, Kansas, since 1978. He is distinguished professor at Kansas State University. I first met Holden when I taught at K-State briefly in the 1970s, and he was generous to many poets and students. He has influenced the direction of American poetry—through essays and example—by insisting that informal, domestic moments are high art.

Holden is passionate about poetry, both as critic and poem-maker. His brilliance manifests in his performances as well as writings. He can quote entire poems by major American and British poets for hours. He masters fields of knowledge—mathematics, tennis, U.S. politics, Bach—and finds ways to use them in everyday situations.

This poem, about apparently ordinary sights, comments upon instinctive knowledge. It mimics the perfect balance that baseball players and sparrows both must practice in order to survive. The lines shift in rhythm, to imitate birds totter and regain balance. Holden uses a passel of rich descriptive verbs, like “pirouette” and “stab,” to describe reflexive movements of the birds and players. These contrast to hesitations—reflection and philosophy—in the poem. Instinct keeps us alive, even when in the dark of night.


These infielders are definite

as sparrows at work.

Split that seed with one peck

or starve.

There is no minor league

for birds. There is

exactly one way

to pirouette into a double play

perfectly. The birds

don’t dare reflect on what

they do, each hop, each stab and

scramble through the air into the

catch of the sycamore’s

top twigs

is a necessity,

absolute. To stay alive

out in the field, you must be

an authority on parabolas

and fear philosophy.

Education: Holden grew up in rural Morristown, New Jersey, described in his memoirs Guns & Boyhood in America and Mama’s Boys. His college degrees, all in English, are from Oberlin (BA 1963), San Francisco State College (MA 1970), and University of Colorado (PhD1974).

Career: This poet has published twenty books of poetry, essays, memoirs, and a novel. Knowing is his most current book of poetry (University of Arkansas Press 2000). He is poet-in-residence and University Distinguished Professor at Kansas State University. He has won awards from the National Arts Endowment, University of Missouri Press, the Associated Writing Programs, and others. Midwest Quarterly devoted the summer 2007 issue to him. His website is www.jonathanholden.com .

© 2007
Denise Low, AAPP6. © 1997 “Night Game,” Jonathan Holden, from Ur-Math, State St. Press © 2005 photo by Greg German. A downloadable version is available for non-commercial use from www.kansaspoets.com

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


JO McDOUGALL (1935 - )

Jo McDougall was born and raised in Arkansas, where she received an MFA under the legendary teacher and editor Miller Williams. She was director of the creative writing program at Pittsburg State University 1987-1998, and currently she resides in Leawood, Kansas.

McDougall brings a Southern sensibility to her writings about the great open Kansas landscape—her work is more narrative, perhaps, and her humor is direct. But the influence of the grasslands is strong in her spare language, use of sharp visual images, and themes of endurance. She is a committed realist. Some of her poems, for me, recall Grant Wood’s paintings like “American Gothic,” but with humor.

Time creates a vivid dimension within McDougall’s Midwestern settings, through the agent of memory. McDougall writes: “Memory is the poet’s calico landscape of the imagination, recalled from the advantage of maturity.” In her poetics, memory appears as flashbacks, obsessive replays, time travel, sustained observations, and reflections. Ironically, McDougall’s survivors’ humor and honest insights construct a natural theology.

In “Blessing,” McDougall creates a story with selected details. The Kansas setting is alluded to with the presence of wind, storm, and sun. The small town intimacy with neighbors is suggested by the narrator’s nosiness. How long was the narrator watching in order to see all these details, including hidden panties? The last line opens the scene to larger questions.


My neighbor hangs out the morning wash

and a storm dances up.

She strips the line,

the children’s pajamas with the purple ducks,

her husband’s shorts,

the panties she had hidden under a sheet.

When the sun comes out

she comes back

with the panties and the sheets, the shorts and the pajamas.

This is my ritual, not hers.

May her husband never stop drinking and buy her a dryer.

Education: McDougall graduated from DeWitt High School. She received an A.A. from Stephens College, BA from University of Arkansas (1957) and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville (1985).

Career: This poet worked has published five books of poetry from BookMark Press-University of Missouri-Kansas City; University of Arkansas Press; and most recently Autumn House Press. Her work has been adapted for film (Emerson County Shaping Dream), theater, music, and artist’s book. Inquiries about the film or books can be directed to mailto:jomcdougall@sbcglobal.net?.

© 2007
Denise Low, AAPP5. © Jo MacDougall, “Blessing,” from Towns Facing Railroads rpt. with permission of U. of Arkansas Press

© Denise Low, photo
A downloadable version is available for non-commercial use from www.kansaspoets.com

Sunday, September 30, 2007



Harley Elliott is the Kansas poet’s poet. He is the writer I studied to learn the best ways to write about grasslands and inner landscapes of the imagination. His words flow as smoothly as conversations among friends. He uses an unassuming mid-Plains dialect—peppered with vivid images. I consider him the first English-language poet to use this region’s idioms. Elliott also writes longer works about history of the West, as well as whimsical and surreal poems. Loading the Stone (Woodley 2006) is a unique prose work that straddles fiction and nonfiction.

Elliott has lived in Salina since he was a two-year-old, and his writing reflects his attachment to prairie spaces. Yet he eschews labels. He told an interviewer: “I was really conscious that if I wasn't careful I would get put into this box called ‘prairie poet.’" This poem is directly about avoiding the stereotypes of labels. He suggests all words can limit direct experience of reality. In this case, the monarch butterfly walks on his face, and “blinded by words,” he fails to match its “shining light.” He addresses his readers and asks us to join in his quandary about how to express relationship with nature. Elliott’s “hinged mosaic” description for butterfly wings here is one of my favorites.


This butterfly stopping on my cheek

would choose yours too

if you had fallen down among

grass and pasture flowers

and your face closed

hard as mine.

This small hinged mosaic

of orange black and palomino

has been given a name

and the danger of names hovers

close to both of us today.

Walking up it stops at

the doorway of my eye:

there I am

blinded by words

in the shining light of its face.

We rush together

earth and sky.

Education: Elliott graduated from Salina High School. He received a BA from Kansas Wesleyan University and an MA in art from New Mexico Highlands University.

Career: This poet and artist spent four years in Syracuse, New York, after college, where he established relationships with New York publishers, including Dick Lourie (Hanging Loose Press). He returned to Salina and taught art at Marymount College until it closed. Then he worked in arts education at the Salina Art Center. His ten books of poetry are from Crossing Press, Hanging Loose, Juniper, Woodley Press (Washburn University), and others.

© 2007
Denise Low, AAPP4. © 1993 Harley Elliott, “Butterfly Master.” © 1989, Denise Low, photo

A downloadable version is available for non-commercial use from www.kansaspoets.com

Monday, September 17, 2007



Langston Hughes was born in Joplin and raised in Lawrence until 1915-16. He was a true genius: he innovated the art of mixing spoken words with music, still an evolving American art form. He celebrated African American culture as he wrote poetry using the spoken vocabulary and sometimes in blues rhythms. He was a leader of the Harlem Renaissance in New York City, where he wrote plays, performed poetry, and mentored writers. He was a journalist, essayist, novelist, lyricist, and children’s author.

When my husband and I researched Hughes’s life in Lawrence for our book Langston Hughes in Lawrence, we found his homes were within walking distance of the Kaw River. He must have walked to its banks and watched the incessant current. The Kaw indeed is a “muddy” river that can be “golden” at dusk.

In this poem, Hughes calls on his memory of rivers as he catalogues, or lists, rivers important to world civilizations. He writes in uneven lines but maintains the poetic feel by using parallel beginnings and repetitions. He wrote of his poetry that it was often “racial in theme” and in “the rhythms of jazz.” This free-flowing poem could be an improvised solo.


I've known rivers:

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy

bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Education: Langston Hughes graduated from high school in Cleveland, attended Columbia University, and earned a BA from Lincoln University, a historically black university.

Career: Beginning with The Weary Blues (1926), Hughes made his living as a professional writer and lecturer. He published over 40 books and wrote numerous plays.


© 2007 Denise Low AAPP3. © 1959 Harold Ober Assoc. Inc. “Negro Speaks of Rivers.” Portrait by Winold Reiss

Monday, September 3, 2007


STEVEN A. HIND (1943- )

For over twenty-five years, Steven Hind has published poetry about life in the Great Plains and Flint Hills of Kansas, including the small towns. Robert Frost is an influence, as well as fellow Kansas poet William Stafford. Hind’s language appears simple, and his people are salt of the earth. Tragedy, extreme weather, and economic disasters complicate the rural experience. Nonetheless, Hind also celebrates the vivid natural life of the region, where animals may be as distinctive as next door neighbors. “Blue Heron” is an example of this.

Many Kansans are avid bird watchers, whether formal members of the Audubon Society or just roadside observers. Hundreds of bird species migrate through the mid-continent skies, and many remain as year-round residents. Great blue herons are colorful water birds found along river banks and marshy areas. The poet accurately acknowledges the bird’s habitat, which is “Behind the pond.” Hind shows how poetry involves research and observation.

This poem could be a simple snapshot of the bird—until I look more closely at Hind’s language and see how he enlivens the description with comparisons. Nearly every line challenges me to see two images at once: willows sound like a silk scarf unfurling; the heron lowers and raises its head like a jackknife closing and opening; guitar frets appear on the water; and the great bird’s wings are like oars of a rowboat. The ending line, “the bright gravel of stars,” is an inversion, where earth and sky reverse positions, echoing the poem’s theme. This dizzying image shows the possibilities for language to surprise and delight.


Behind the pond under a whispering

scarf of willows, heron does his lone

knifewalk beside the wind-fretted waters.

His deft movements make a death

defying progress: a life of mud transmuted

into sky life as he rows away on a river

of air and its melody of coyote song

through cedars beyond cedars, their

silhouettes swallowed by darkness

beneath the bright gravel of stars.

: Steven Hind was born and raised near Madison, in the Flint Hills. He earned a BA from Emporia State University and an MA (1970) from the University of Kansas.

Career: Hind taught at Hutchinson Community College and Topeka High School for 36 years. His books are Familiar Ground (1980); That Trick of Silence (1990); In A Place With No Map, (1997); and Loose Change of Wonder (2006, Ks. Notable Book Award). His CD Waking in the Flint Hills is available by writing to 503 Monterey Way, Hutchinson, KS 67502.

© 2007 Denise Low AAPP2 © 2006 Steven Hind “Great Blue Heron” © 2005 Patsy Terrell, photo of Steven Hind

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Dear Friend of Ad Astra Poetry Project,

Please enjoy the following electronic “broadside” or poetry flyer. You may use it for nonprofit educational purposes; you may not reproduce it for commercial gain. The poem was first printed in Road Apple Review, and I reprinted it in the collection Kansas Poets of William Stafford, with his permission.

Eventually, I will collect these biweekly broadsides into a book, to be published by the Center for Kansas Studies at Washburn University, in cooperation with Thomas Fox Averill. Until then, you may copy it for educational purposes from this site or download it in pdf form on Greg German’s Kansas Poets site: http://www.kansaspoets.com/

This Ad Astra (To the Stars) Poetry Project is part of my commitment as poet laureate for the state of Kansas 2007-2009. I hope to share my enthusiasm for historic and contemporary poets who resided in Kansas for a substantial part of their lives. I appreciate Greg German's support! Many thanks to Steven Hind for sharing the photograph. Finally, my thanks to Jonathan Holden, first poet laureate of Kansas, who set the standard.

Best, Denise Low



William Stafford is my first choice for the exemplary Kansas poet. His work exhibits the language, values, and experience of the Great Plains. He describes the sky’s drama: its Milky Way swirls, wind-churned clouds, and limitless space. His poems also pay attention to the expansive earth below sky: its animals, plants, peoples, and histories. When I met Stafford we shared stories about childhood rambles along edges of town—creeks and pastures—and how these influenced us as adults. His words take us on outdoors walks.

However, Stafford does more than describe landscape; rather, he shows it is a stage for human inquiry into the nature of existence. His poems are riddles. Each asks questions about not just the human condition, but about the condition of the cosmos itself. He was a person of great faith, yet his poems are not preachy. He leads us to a hillside to ponder with him, and his inquiry becomes a tool of belief.

This poem begins at the edge of a town, where civilization becomes subject to time’s passing. Look for shifts in Stafford’s poems or pivotal words, such as “but” and “sage” in this poem. At the end, the poem shifts to the point of view of the sage, which appears to “flash” or wave to the onlooker. And notice the balance of the last line, both the “Yes” and the suggestion for “no.”


Where Western towns end nobody cares,

finished things thrown around,

prairie grass into old cars, a lost race

reported by tumbleweed.

And hints for us all stand there, small

or shadowed. You can watch

the land by the hour, what hawks overlook,

little things, grain of sand.

But when the right hour steps over the hills

all of the sage flashes at once,

a gesture for miles to reach every friend:

Yes. Though there’s wind in the world.

Education: William Stafford, born in Hutchinson, graduated from Liberal High School, and received a BA (1933) and MA (1947) from the University of Kansas. He received a PhD from the University of Iowa (1954).

Career: Stafford taught at Lewis and Clark College 1948 to 1980. Until his death he traveled widely speaking about poetry and writing. He won a National Book Award (1963) for Traveling Through the Dark. In 1970 Stafford was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, now the U.S. Poet Laureate position. He was poet laureate of Oregon.

© 2007 Denise Low, AAPP1© 1990 William Stafford Family “For a Distant Friend,” in Kansas Poems of Wm. Stafford.© 2007, photograph, by Steven Hind

Thursday, August 16, 2007

New Poem by Stephen Bunch

This one gave me chills, and reprinted with permission:

300 Grams

When the sleeper wakes to the daily
autopsy, he feels the weight of his heart
as if it were in his hand, the weight
of a glass of water run cold
from the tap. The morning
breeze subsides, time thickens, trees
filter daylight into a cloudy tea,
as if the sun pulsed and strained
through every vein of every leaf, as if
the waking could weigh this day
as if it were the last, could tell
when the sun stopped beating.

Stephen Bunch

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


My project as poet laureate is to post electronic "broadsides" or flyers that feature Kansas-related poets. These will be posted here and also at www.kansaspoets.com and the Kansas Arts Commission website. We are working out final details.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Another National Poetry Site: SUNY Buffalo Electronic Poetry Center

My dear friend Judith Roitman reminded me I left out an important resource for the Poetry Publishing Basics post. I quote her here:

"State University of New York-Buffalo's Electronic Poetry Center, http://epc.buffalo.edu/, has generous samplings of hundreds and hundreds of poets, and some interesting links, including one to PennSounds MP3 files from lots and lots of poets (although not hundreds), including Ezra Pound, Charles Reznikoff, John Yau, Alice Notley, Jorie Graham, Jack Spicer, Ted Berrigan... In the C's and D's are John Cage, Paul Celan, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, HD (under her full name, Hilda Doolittle), Paul Laurence Dunbar, Robert Duncan...."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Poetry Publishing Basics: Like House Painting, Preparation Is the Real Work

This is information I presented to the Kansas Authors Club District 2 meeting last week, and I was asked to post it. Good luck with the publishing/reading/writing/thinking/ego part of po-biz.

  • Get Poet’s Market or International Directory of Little & Small Presses for MS basics.
  • Learn grammar well. Learn style—read Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.
  • Educate yourself. Read! Take classes and attend conferences. Lawrence Arts Center. KU non degree-seeking student. River City Book Fair Oct. 14, sponsored by Lawrence Public Library. Kansas Book Fair Oct. 5-6. Read Poetry and American Poetry Review.
  • Be part of a writers’ group—online or in person—and get feedback.
  • Write for your community. Poetry is a communal art form, so start locally. Write for organization newsletters, Lawrence JW, your writers’ group (Lawrence Housing Authority anthology, for ex.).
  • Be part of the book culture. Buy books. Check books out of the library. Download book podcasts. Read. Read. Read. Read.
  • Cultivate a variety of tastes. Learn the different movements in poetry: surreal (Charles Simic & Victor Contoski); deep image (Ted Kooser & Robert Bly); formalist; etc.
    Appreciate the arc from beginning to journeyman to mastery of writing. It takes years, and each stage has its joys. There are very, very few writing prodigies. Expect to put in 10 years. Try to learn from those ahead of you and help teach those behind you.
  • Know your audience: buy the magazine(s) you want to publish in or books from the publisher(s). Become familiar with their style and needs. Get online and read guidelines.
  • Use Kansas (or local) internet resources. Kansas poetry site- http://www.kansaspoets.com/ Ad Astra blog- http://deniselow.blogspot.com/. Washburn “Map of Kansas Literature” - http://www.washburn.edu/reference/cks/mapping/index.html
  • Use national sites: The International Library of Poetry - comprehensive poetry site. The Internet Poetry Archive - Selected contemporary poets. Poets House - Poetry Info and Resources. Poetry Daily – Daily poem, news, archives. Poetry X - devoted to reading, analyzing, and discussing the best in classic and contemporary poetry. The Poet's Bookshelf - American poets, biographies & poems. Poetry Slam Incorporated - the official website of poetry slams.
  • Join professional associations: Associated Writing Programs. www.awpwriter.org/ Poets & Writers. http://www.pw.org/. Poetry Soc. of America http://www.poetrysociety.org/ . Academy of American Poets http://www.poets.org/.
  • Learn about self-publishing and print-on-demand. Literary presses are stressed, run by volunteers, & flooded with MSS from professors needing tenure. Self-publishing is quick, cheap, and convenient, plus if there is profit, you get it. http://www.lightingsource.com/ is the POD I use, and there are others. It’s about $300 to set up and publish a book and then about $6@. You can reorder any time. It goes on Amazon.com automatically.
  • Don’t get caught up in the fame game. Examine your reasons for wanting to write and publish. Some are gallant; some are not. Be honest. You’ll be a lot happier if you find your own personal satisfaction in the act of writing…which can spill over into sharing.
  • Writing can be a path to personal and community transformation. The new Transformative Language Arts movement has academic programs and an organization: http://web.goddard.edu/~tla/ - Goddard’s resource page for degrees in Transformative Language Arts. See also the Transformative Language Arts Network: http://www.tlanetwork.org/ . Goddard’s site is very, very good!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Stanley Banks New Letters on the Air Interview Available Until Aug. 15

I've been an admirer of Stan Banks since we published together in a volume Mid American Trio, a collection of 3 chapbooks by Stan, Greg Field, and myself. Dan Jaffee edited this for BookMark Press. Stan continues to be a leading figure in the KC area and beyond. New Letters on the Air has an excellent interview with him. Angela Elam brings out the best in her subjects. She also does her background research.

I have learned how to listen to these online podcasts and also download them, and what a luxury it is to hear the author and have the opportunity to acquire this interview free until Aug. 15. Treat yourself to this conversation between Stan Banks and Angela Elam. Here is the New Letters description and link:

"Stanley E. Banks’ poetry explores the segregated Kansas City of his youth and some of the difficulties of growing up in his black neighborhood. In this program, he discusses how he overcame racial prejudice to find success in the unlikely arena of poetry. A literary child of the earlier Missouri poet, Langston Hughes, Banks reads from Blue Beat Syncopation, the collection that captures the first 25 years of his career."


Saturday, August 4, 2007

Jane Ciabattari Interviews Former WSU Writer James Lee Burke

One of my favorite people at WSU, years ago when I did my MFA, was James Lee Burke. His son had been my student when I was teaching at KU, so pere JLB and I had an instant connection. He was a struggling creative writing professor, trying to teach full time, write, and get his novels published!

Burke writes beautiful, vivid and violent prose about New Iberia, La., and Montana.This interview focuses on Katrina, and he describes it very powerfully. His latest Dave Robicheaux
book is set in post-Katrina New Orleans.

My thanks to sister Jane, who conducted this interview.

For further information, here's the official James Lee Burke site.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Press Release from Library of Congress: Simic Appointed U.S. Poet Laureate

This is from the government site: http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2007/07-154.html

"Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced the appointment of Charles Simic to be the Library’s 15th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.

"Simic will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library’s annual literary series on Oct. 17 with a reading of his work. He also will be a featured speaker at the Library of Congress National Book Festival in the Poetry pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 29, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

"Simic succeeds Donald Hall as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including most recently Ted Kooser, Louise Glück, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove. The laureate generally serves a one- or two-year term.

"On making the appointment, Billington said, "The range of Charles Simic’s imagination is evident in his stunning and unusual imagery. He handles language with the skill of a master craftsman, yet his poems are easily accessible, often meditative and surprising. He has given us a rich body of highly organized poetry with shades of darkness and flashes of ironic humor."

"Simic is the author of 18 books of poetry. He is also an essayist, translator, editor and professor emeritus of creative writing and literature at the University of New Hampshire, where he has taught for 34 years. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990 for his book of prose poems "The World Doesn't End" (1989). His 1996 collection "Walking the Black Cat" was a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry. In 2005 he won the Griffin Prize for "Selected Poems: 1963-2003." Simic held a MacArthur Fellowship from 1984 to1989.

"In addition to his memoirs, titled "A Fly in the Soup" (2000), he has written essays; critical reviews; a biography on surrealist sculptor and artist Joseph Cornell, known for his collage boxes; and 13 translations from Eastern European works. Simic’s own works have been widely translated.

"Born in Yugoslavia on May 9, 1938, Simic arrived in the United States in 1954. He has been a U.S. citizen for 36 years and lives in Strafford, N.H.

"I am especially touched and honored to be selected because I am an immigrant boy who didn’t speak English until I was 15," he said. Simic’s mastery of English has made his work as appealing to the literary community as it is to the general public.

"Simic’s childhood was complicated by the events of World War II. He moved to Paris with his mother when he was 15; a year later, they joined his father in New York and then moved to Oak Park, a suburb of Chicago. Simic was graduated from the same high school as Ernest Hemingway. Like a previous laureate, Ted Kooser, Simic started writing poetry in high school to get the attention of girls, he has said.

"Simic attended the University of Chicago, working nights in an office at the Chicago Sun Times, but was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1961 and served until 1963. He earned his bachelor's degree from New York University in 1966. From 1966 to 1974 he wrote and translated poetry, and he also worked as an editorial assistant for Aperture, a photography magazine. He married fashion designer Helen Dubin in 1964. They have two children.

"Simic will publish a new book of poetry, "That Little Something," in Feb. 2008. His most recent poetry volume is "My Noiseless Entourage" (2005). In reviewing the tome in Booklist, Janet St. John wrote, "Simic's gift is his ability to unite the real with the abstract in poems that lend themselves to numerous interpretations, much like dreams. Whether using the metaphor of a dog for the self, or speaking to sunlight, Simic, original and engaging, keeps us on our toes, guessing, questioning, and looking at the world in a new way."

"In another critique of "My Noiseless Entourage," Benjamin Paloff wrote in the Boston Review that Simic's "predilection for brief, unembellished utterances lends an air of honesty and authority to otherwise perplexing or outrageous scenes."

"Simic’s first collection, "What the Grass Says," (1967) was noted for its surrealist poems. Throughout his career, he has been regarded for his short, clear poems in which the words are distilled and precise. His poem "Stone" often appears in anthologies. It begins "Go inside a stone / That would be my way. / Let somebody else become a dove / Or gnash with a tiger's tooth. / I am happy to be a stone …"

"Among his earlier books, "Jackstraws" (1999) was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times. "Classic Ballroom Dances" won the 1980 di Castagnola Award and the Harriet Monroe Poetry Award, and "Charon’s Cosmology" was a National Book Award for Poetry finalist in 1978. He has also received the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the PEN Translation Prize and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2000. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts."