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:

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 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,, 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- Ad Astra blog- Washburn “Map of Kansas Literature” -
  • 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. Poets & Writers. Poetry Soc. of America . Academy of American Poets
  • 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. 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 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: - Goddard’s resource page for degrees in Transformative Language Arts. See also the Transformative Language Arts Network: . 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:

"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 Gl├╝ck, 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."

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

New Mikrokosmos Includes Music CD

I just received my new copy of Mikrokosmos, published by Wichita State University's MFA in Creative Writing program, and it is a beautiful production: full-color cover and art; nice paper; great design; and a back pocket that includes a CD of original music. This is a showcase for student and alumni work. Notes indicate this has been published in conjunction with the MFA since 1958--surely one of the oldest continuous literary publications in the country. The program is just a bit younger than the Iowa University program.

The writing is commendable. I was honored to judge the poetry contest, and I can attest to its quality. I published in this blog one of Craig Blais's poems (March 26), and I recommend you look for it! Other works are non-fiction and short stories. Dietrik Vanderhill edited it.

I spent happy months working on my MFA at WSU, so I have a biased viewpoint here. But do look at the line-up of writing faculty: Albert Goldbarth, Margaret Dawe, Jeanine Hathaway, W. Stephen Hathaway, Richard Spilman.

Congratulations on fine work.