Sunday, November 28, 2010

Review: Douglas County Jail Blues published by Coal City Review (Oct. 2010)

Brian Daldorph, editor of this collection of poems by inmates at the Douglas County Correctional Facility (Lawrence, Ks.), presents a decade of writings from his and Michael Caron's writing class. The collection is raw and honest. The images are like bricks--indeed a strength of the group of writings is the original, confrontational descriptions. Voices of the twenty-plus writers collect in these pages and narrate a counter-reality of American failure and anguish. Mike Caron writes about the project: "Words on paper can be an effective alternative to smashing fists in concrete walls or screaming obscenities." Caron has it right--these poems are immediate and necessary. This is where poetry resides, in the incarnation/incarceration of spirit within walls of flesh.
The blues, referenced in the title, are a strict musical form, 8 bars; the prisoners use regular forms as often as free verse. The editor's touch is light, so authenticity is preserved. At the same time, this is a group of poems with evidence of thoughtful revision/reflection. Here is one that shows the kind of punch many of these word-bombs create:

Danegrus Dane: Confession of a Killer
It's like this, I tried everything
but nothin' worked, everywhere I
looked they had me surrounded
where the shadows lurk. What I don't
understand is why every time I look out
the window I'm the guy standin' there
holding that big silenced Desert Eagle
with the laser sights & teflon-rubber grip.
I'm the one comin' to get me & all I got:
the gold bars, the diamonds & all that
blood money. So much money like you've
never seen. So much more blood. I guess the
best way 2 kill a killer is 2 send another;
I guess that's why they sent me,
the most dangerus of 'em all. Good, at least
it'll be quick, at least
I don't think I'll let me suffer.

In Lawrence at the Raven Bookstore and Jayhawk Ink. To order, send $10 check or money order to Brian Daldorph, Coal City Review, English Department, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS, 66045.

Nearly Unbearable Grace: The Poetry of Joy Harjo

Simon J. Ortiz: A Poetic Legacy of Indigenous Continuance

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

THE FIELD OF PLAY by Steve Heller

Steve Heller is director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program, Antioch University Los Angeles. Please acknowledge Steve Heller as author in reproductions of any part of this tribute.

This past Saturday the football teams of Northwestern University and University of Illinois met on a neutral field in Chicago. Northwestern’s record stood at 7-3 overall, but only 3-3 in the Big Ten. The Wildcats had already qualified for a post-season bowl game but were out of contention for the conference championship. Illinois stood at a mediocre 5-5, needing at least one more victory in order to meet the minimum NCAA eligibility for post-season play. The game has already been played, the outcome decided. But this story is not about who won and who lost.

The game was played at Wrigley Field, which from 1921 to 1970 was the home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Wrigley is much better known, of course, as the historic home of baseball’s loveable losers, the Chicago Cubs, whose last World Series Championship came in 1908. Despite the Cubs’ century of frustration, Wrigley Field has a rich baseball history. Hall of Famers Gabby Harnett, Hack Wilson, Ferguson Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg, and Mr. Cub himself, Ernie Banks, all played there. But this story isn’t about baseball either.

Wrigley Field is known for its classic jewel box shape, ivy-covered outfield walls, and its home runs when the wind is blowing out. Ernie Banks called Wrigley “the friendly confines.” Because of Wrigley’s size and shape, the football layout for Chicago Bears games was north-to-south, accommodating the full dimensions of a football field, plus barely adequate room beyond each sideline and end zone. However, because the Cubs had subsequently added seats along the first and third base lines, the layout for the Northwestern-Illinois game had to be east-to-west. As a result, the southeast corner of the east end zone nearly abutted the right field wall. Despite heavy padding on the wall, Big Ten officials determined that the east end zone was unsafe for players. A decision was therefore made to have every offensive play run toward the west end zone, thus requiring teams to trade sides of the field with each change of possession. The special ground rule had implications for game strategy, of course—but this story isn’t about strategy or even sports. It has something to do with safety, but mostly it’s about something bigger than that.

When I heard the game between Northwestern and Illinois would be played at Wrigley Field, my first thought was: What would Phil Heldrich think about this?

Aaaa, it’s gonna be a flea circus, I imagined Phil crabbing in a flat nasal tone, dismissing the whole notion with a toss of his right hand. They’ll bounce off right field like pinballs (forgive my mixed metaphor). Every time somebody scores, the zebras will have to duck.

Phil had grown up in Chicago, “a beer’s throw from Wrigley,” as he put it. Despite what I already knew he would think about the reconfiguration of the park for a single college football game, I wanted to ask him: Would you go to the game anyway?

Go? His eyes would flash, shoulders stiffen. Of course I’d go to the game!

Of course he would have. Phil Heldrich was my student in the MA in English Program at Kansas State University. The day he first walked into my office in Denison Hall (since demolished) back in the fall of 1991, neither of us could have predicted the future that lay before him.

“I think I need to withdraw from the program” were his first words to me, before he’d even settled into a chair.
“Well, that seems a little rash,” I said, or something like that. “Classes haven’t even started yet. What’s the problem?”
“I don’t really like literature,” Phil admitted with a grimace. “I mean, I’ve read literary books, but they’re not really about anything.”
“Well, that could be a problem, because literature is about everything. Who do you like to read?”

He folded his arms across his chest. “Stephen King.”
I shrugged. “That’s a place to start.”
Phil squinted at me like I was a bug in his soup. “See, the thing is . . . I thought this was going to be a creative writing program. You know, workshops, agents, editors, how to get published, that sort of thing.”
“We have creative writing workshops; you’re enrolled in one.”
“Yeah, but you have to take all this lit too. I don’t know if I can stand it.”

I reached for the nearest bookshelf and grabbed a copy of The Great Gatsby.
He shook his head vigorously. “I’ve read it already.”
“Read it again,” I said, pressing the book into his hands. “Not for class, just for yourself. And when you read it, I want you to think about these things . . .”

Please understand: No magical transformation occurred here. The conversion of Phil Heldrich from cynical consumer of popular literature to dedicated literary artist and devoted teacher took a long time and involved at least two English departments. And it was never complete. “Good writing is good writing,” Phil liked to say. For years, he served as Chair of the Southwest/Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association, leading efforts to examine all aspects of the many cultures that inform our lives. But somewhere along the way, Phil definitely drank the literary cool aid. He overcame his previous lack of serious reading, the initial skepticism of many faculty (including me), and, most of all, his own negative view of the literary life. Over a period of years, Phil became, in his own way, a man of letters. He completed not only his MA at Kansas State but a PhD in English at Oklahoma State University. He joined the English faculty of Emporia State University, and co-directed the Creative Writing Program with Amy Sage Webb. He won numerous awards for research and teaching, and eventually moved on to become Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington in Tacoma.

Phil studied fiction with me, but he wrote and published in almost all genres, including literary criticism. His book of poems, Good Friday, won the X. J. Kennedy Prize, judged by Kennedy himself. His book of essays, Out Here in the Out There: Essays in a Region of Superlatives, won the Mid-List Press First Series Award for Creative Nonfiction. He published individual stories, poems, essays, and critical articles far too numerous to mention. He became, in short, an accomplished literary artist. In my 30+ years of teaching, he is also the student who progressed the most, the writer who did the most with what he had.

By now you’ve probably guessed that Phil is no longer with us. On November 11, 2010, nine days before Northwestern played Illinois at Wrigley Field, Phil died of complications related to spinal cancer. He was 45 years old. He battled the cancer for more than two years, but kept that battle secret from most of his friends and colleagues, including me. When the news was finally leaked to me by a former colleague, I attempted to contact Phil. But I was too late. Not long after I’d begun to wonder what he would think about the upcoming football game at Wrigley, I learned he was dead.

One of things I had the privilege of observing Phil learn was the power of irony. Like Housman’s athlete who died young, Phil’s renown did not outrun him. He was productive to the very end, teaching classes and writing stories, poems, and articles until his body simply would not allow it. He remained on the field, playing as hard and as well as he could, regardless of obstacles, until the field itself crumbled around him. He is survived by his wife Christine, his daughter Alexendra, and by many hundreds of friends and former students who admired him. He is, and will remain, a model for everyone who dreams of becoming a writer. Today I call upon all my students, past and present—as well as readers and writers of literature everywhere—to read Phil Heldrich and to reflect on the examples of his life and art. The field Phil learned to play in was indeed friendly—and, I believe his life and work teach us, unconfined. #

Another tribute is at:
Comment from E. Washington University:

Saturday, November 20, 2010


  • Nov. 30  Reading by Kevin Rabas and Cheryl Unruh, Lawrence Public Library and co-sponsored by The Raven Book Store. Poet and jazz musician Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University and is co-editor of Flint Hills Review. His second book of poetry, Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano, was chosen as a 2009 Kansas Notable Book. Award-winning author Unruh’s essays on subjects that Kansans know and love—nature and landscape, weather, seasons, small towns and fond memories of childhood—have been collected into a book, also titled Flyover People. If you too appreciate “life on the ground in a rectangular state,” you will enjoy this book. Unruh is originally from Pawnee Rock, graduated from KU, and now lives in Emporia.
  • Dec. 1 Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde panel, Johnson County Library, KC, 9875 87th St., 7pm with Robert Butler, film critic for KC Star; Jennifer Phegley, University of Missouri-Kansas City; Robert Trussell, theater critic for KC Star; and Ann Volin, Rockhurst University. Moderator John Mark Eberhart
  • Dec. 2 Holiday Big Tent Reading Megan Kaminski (poet), Kelsey Murrell (playwright), Kevin Frost (playwright), Alexis Smith (poet). 7 pm at the Raven Bookstore. See:
  • DEC. 3 Dec. 3 Imagination & Place anthology release and reading, Writer's Place in Kansas City, 7 pm Independent arts group since 1999 presents third anthology: Imagination & Place: Seasonings. The theme is spices of life in relation to place. These spices may be herbal or chemical; they may evoke time and cycles. &
  • DEC. 4 Poetry reading by Serina Hearn & Denise Low. 6 pm. Contact for details. Hearn and Low release new books by Woodley Memorial Press of Washburn University. Hearn’s Atlas of Our Birth, a KC Star Notable Book, is her second book. Low’ Ghost Stories of the New West gathers poetry about heritage and frontier history. Here is a poem by Serina Allison Hearn:


I found her impaled
In midnight’s grey bandages
of mortality,
a garden
pitchfork emerges
from her head,
carpenter nails pounded in deep
paralyze her wings, arms;
and a saw blade -
that miracle of technology
forty-fives below the heart:
keeps her from singing the world anew
as the great Roman road of progress
continues to pave over the memories
of the fallen; their ancient wisdom,
customs, landscapes shattered,
a butterfly, under the hammer
of construction.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yony Leyser's Burroughs movie premieres in NYC and gets a prime NY Times Review

 New York Times critic Stephen Holden gives a two-page review of this independent film, ending with comments about Burroughs's time in Lawrence: "Late in life Burroughs softened somewhat, recalls James Grauerholz, his companion and executor of his estate. They moved to Lawrence, Kan., where Burroughs, an avid gun fetishist, took up visual art and produced 'shotgun paintings,' made by shooting a can of spray paint placed in front of a plywood board." The film opens Nov. 17 at the IFC in NYC. (Holden, by the way, is the twin brother of Kansas 1st poet laureate Jonathan Holden.)
The review gives highlights of the interviews with Ginsberg, John Waters, Patti Smith, and other famous friends, but when you see the movie itself, the footage is amazing. Tom Pescio and Wayne Propst are two Lawrence friends of Burroughs who recorded his shooting trips, his friendly meals, and visits from personages who stopped by the house on Learnard St.
Congratulations to Yony Leyser, the filmmaker, who started this project when he was a journalism student at the University of Kansas. Holden says of Leyser's film that "While burnishing the Burroughs mystique, 'A Man Within' assiduously tries to humanize an author whom it is all too easy to view as an avenging nihilist, a black hole of icy misanthropic contempt." Those who knew Burroughs later in life saw a softer man than this, with genuine sensitivity to others, especially his cats. He enjoyed conversation and had a brilliant intellect.
 My husband Tom Weso and I attended a fund-raising early viewing of a first cut in Chicago, where it was evident Yony had support of the narrator, Peter Weller and many others. Yony has persevered, and the film is opening across the country this fall. It plays in Lawrence Dec. 4 at Liberty Hall. Other screenings are:
25-Nov Los Angeles, CA Downtown Independent

10-Dec Dallas, TX Texas Theater
13-Dec Albuquerque, NM The Guild
13-Dec Greensboro, NC Circus Cinema
17-Dec Eugene, OR Bijou Art Cinema
Jan-ToBeAnnounced-Chicago, IL Music Box Theater
TBA-Boston, MA
TBA-San Francisco, CA

Saturday, November 13, 2010

William J. Harris poem "Practical Concerns": Print and U-Tube Link

William J. Harris


From a distance, I watch
a man digging a hole with a machine.
I go closer.
The hole is deep and narrow.

I ask the ditchdigger if I may climb down
and ask the bird a question.
He says, why sure.

It's nice and cool in the ditch.
The bird and I talk about singing.
Very little about technique.

Louis Copt filmed Harris’s poem “Practical Concerns”:

Selected Publications of Wm. J. Harris: The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka: The Jazz Aesthetic (1985), Hey Fella Would You Mind Holding This Piano a Moment (1974), and In My Own Dark Way (1977).

Kansas Univ. Associate Professor Harris has also published poetry in fifty anthologies, and some of the more recent work appears in Uptown Conversation: The New Jazz Studies (2004) and Every Goodbye Ain't Gone: An Anthology of Innovative Poetry by African Americans (2006). He is the editor or co-editor of The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (1991, 2000), Call and Response: The Riverside Anthology of African American Literary Tradition (1997) and a double issue of The African American Review on Amiri Baraka (Summer/Fall 2003).

For more on painter and film maker Louis Copt: 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

****Denise Low and Catherine Anderson read Friday, Nov. 12, 8 pm The Writers Place of Kansas City. Low will read from her new book Ghost Stories of the New West: From Einstein’s Brain to Geronimo’s Boots.

****Woodley Memorial Press of Washburn University publishes Ghost Stories of the New West, by Denise Low. Prose and poetry about disembodied spirits who still inhabit the frontier. Low, 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate, is an award-winning writer with a sense of history and deep geography. Available at the Raven, Jayhawk Ink, and Prairie Lights, as well as ISBN 978-0-9817334-9-4

For the Maiden Aunts and Bachelor Uncles

For an uncle called Big Miller
killed by Lenape Indians in Ohio.
For Lenape uncles killed by Big Miller.

For Cherokee aunts killed by Jackson’s soldiers.
For soldiers drowned by Water Monsters—
the antlered giant fish in deep rivers.

For the cowboy Edwin who died of typhoid.
He lost his chance to gamble, brawl, sin,
and be redeemed.

For the nameless toddler great-uncle
who tipped the boiling coffee pot
and scalded himself to death.

For Great-Aunt Annie who passed
amid a great rush of breath
taking also her sister’s Christian faith.

For those dead from snakebite, pox,
frostbite, horse kick, stampede, cholera
gunshot, grass fire, and bad water.

For their sunken burials on grassy hillsides.
Dawn sunlight erases chiseled names
and embellishments of marble wild roses.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


The Lawrence Arts Center and the Raven Book Store announce their sponsorships of the 2011 Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award. Two awards of $500 each will be given annually, one in the area of poetry and one in the area of fiction.

APPLICATION DEADLINE IS DECEMBER 10, 2010 All manuscripts will be submitted electronically, via email. Please submit the materials according to SUBMISSION GUIDELINES as an attachment to the following email address: See details at

Writer Eligibility:
• Writers of poetry or fiction
• Writers currently living in Douglas County and who have lived here for one year prior to submission of materials
• Writers who are 21 years old or older
• Writers who have published a book-length volume of poetry or fiction are not eligible. (Self-published works are exempted.)
• Previous winners are not eligible.

Selection: Selection will be based on artistic quality as presented in materials submitted and will be made by a committee of outstanding regional writers. The committee reserves the right to issue no awards.Sponsors of the Langston Hughes Creative Writing Award: The Raven Bookstore and The Lawrence Arts Center.

Growing up in Lawrence prepared Langston Hughes (1902-1967) to understand the difficulties of a racist society as well as the complexities of life itself. He responded by writing in diverse genres--poetry, fiction, drama, memoir, travel narrative--and in diverse styles, drawing on the rich culture of African Americans and the many voices of American democracy. His writing reflected this diversity--shifting from the psychological and political to the lyrical, the tragic, the humorous, crossing literary boundaries, always experimental, always seeking to express a clearer, more memorable vision of the reality he experienced. The Langston Hughes Award seeks to encourage and support poets and writers who, today, are continuing to present their life experiences creatively through poetry, stories, and non-fiction prose. Surprise us. Move us. Help us see ourselves and our lives in new ways.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mother as Metaphor Panel: My British/German/Delaware/Mother, Myself

Here is an excerpt from the great panel Kathryn Kysar, Shannon Olson, Morgan Grayce Willow & I presented at the Iowa City Conference "Nonfiction NOW." Great conference, and thanks to the organizers.
...Native thought, as I understand it, is this: Metaphor is very close to, almost identical with, reality. “The Earth is a mother” is a literal, not figurative, sentence. Every day, water and food—grains, fruits, and meats—go through my system. I breathe. I am the same substance as the earth, and I undergo the same processes as any other aspect of this creation. Leslie Marmon Silko writes about this literalness of the Earth’s matrix: “The dead become dust, and in this becoming they are once more joined with the Mother. The ancient Pueblo people called the earth the Mother Creator of all things in this world. Her sister, the Corn Mother, occasionally merges with her because all succulent green life rises out of the depths of the earth….A rock shares this fate with us and with animals and plants as well” (Yellow Woman and a Beauty of Spirit 27). The emergence of new life from old is a real, fundamental law of our planet.
A second understanding from Native philosophers is that visible and invisible experiences are one. So the present and the afterlife; this world and the world of spirit; physical reality and imagined reality—all these have equal valence.
And another is: time is exists in its own incomprehensible dimension, without being sorted into past, present, and future linear grammar.
And finally, a fourth thought from Native tradition: transformation is continuing motion—seasons, personal identities, social movements, global trends. Nothing is static. This may be the fundamental theme in all Native literature.
     All these descriptions from Native writers describe my personal experiences with my mother more closely than any other worldview. First: Metaphor is more an elaboration of reality than a parallel shadow. The British literature idea of metaphor that I learned in graduate school collapses, as I look at literal creative energy in a more encompassing way.
I literally began life as my mother. I was a tiny bead of her reproductive body tissue, an egg, deep within her torso, where I grew. I was born out of her body, and for months did not understand myself as separate. My immature brain could only perceive my body as an extension of hers. Indeed, that separation of bodies and consciousness has not been complete. I look very much like my mother, except for coloring. In many ways, I am still my mother. I speak her dialect of American English, my mother tongue; I have her body type; I cook her recipes—and indeed use some of her pans, spoons, and jars; and in my garden are her sage, lemon balm, mint, daylilies, and iris—offspring of her plants from forty years ago. Of course I have struggled with this overlap in our identities. Of course I have had different education and life experiences. Yet at my core, pieces of me are still my mother, in a very literal sense. Some of these are not immediately perceptible. . . .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Friday, November 12, 2010, 8:00 PM Riverfront Reading: Catherine Anderson and Denise Low

Catherine Anderson is the author of two poetry collections, The Work of Hands and In the Mother Tongue (Alice James Books). Denise Low, 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate, has published 20 books of poetry and essays. She is a board member of the Associated Writers & Writing Programs, and has taught creative writing at Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Richmond.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mario Vargas Llosa wins 2010 Nobel Prize for Literature

The web has relatively little information about this Spanish-speaking Peruvian writer whose major works extend before web-time. He was born in 1936 and began publishing major works in his thirties. His opus of novels, poetry, drama, criticism, journalism, and essays have earned him the Spanish literature Cervantes prize.
     The Nobel committee cited writer Mario Vargos Llosa's work for its: "cartography of structures of power" and "trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."
     PBS interviewed UCLA professor Efrain Kristal about Vargas Llosa's work. Kristal described his career: "He's one of the master storytellers of the 20th century. He is also a master of literary technique who was able to take folk approaches to shifting temporal and spatial planes to a new level. He was first famous for writing three very strong novels in the 1960s in which he explored the corrosive impact of corruption on individuals, on communities and on society at large. And then in the 1970s there was a turning point in his career. He began to turn to humor, to irony, to a literary technique in which he alternated literary registers and was very concerned about the theme of the fanatic."
Vargas Llosa's non-fiction prose, Contra viento y marea (three volumes: 1983, 1986, and 1990), has been edited and translated by John King as the book Making Waves ( )

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

National Book Awards Nominations for Poetry Announced:

*Kathleen Graber, The Eternal City (Princeton University Press)
*Terrance Hayes, Lighthead (Viking Penguin)
*James Richardson, By the Numbers (Copper Canyon Press)
*C.D. Wright, One with Others (Copper Canyon Press)
*Monica Youn, Ignatz (Four Way Books)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Cherokee Teachings Tonight at the Lawrence Public Library

Author Pamela Dawes Tambornino reads at the Lawrence Public Library auditorium tonight, Oct. 5, 7 pm. She will sign copies of her new book, Maggie's Story: Teachings of a Cherokee Healer. The book contains a series of vignettes and remembrances of times spent with her grandmother and lessons learned during the course of daily activities. Books will be available for purchase. Here is how one chapter begins:

My grandmother was a special woman, not just because she was a healer, but because she knew the stories and ways of the Nation. Many nights we would lie on a blanket outside and look at the stars. These were special times. She would point at the big dipper and talk about the story behind it, and then in the same breath would talk about how stars began in the sky – the old stories of the elders.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SUMMERSET REVIEW poems by Denise Low and Commentary Contest: 50 dollars for 50 words

Here are the first lines of two of the poems Summerset Rev. was gracious enough to publish. See their site for the full poems. Also note their contest for commentary about any piece published in their online/print journal.

After a photograph by Terry Evans
"Great blue heron, Texas, 1922"

Its neck recurves
like a ladle handle
bends into its breast:
a still-life arabesque….


Like the cherm or charm of finches, so the skulk of foxes
confounds the twilight. Step-sidling, their auburn pelts shift
into shadows. Like cats they stalk mice. Lanky legs turn black.
Vertically slit eyes catch last yellow sunlight and hold it steady….

From Summerset Review's announcement page:
“Each quarter, we award $50 & complimentary print issue to one or more readers who submit the best feedback on pieces appearing in the current issue of The Summerset Review. The goals of this unique contest are to promote the awareness and visibility of literary magazines in our world and culture, and to get continued assurance that we have indeed connected with our readers." Deadline December 1, 2010. Comments must pertain to material in SR be over 50 words. They "are particularly interested in how the material affected you; what impact it had, what memory it stirred, what idea it precipitated." Email your feedback to” A second interactive Summerset Review program is: “Readers and reading groups are invited to discuss the topics below relating to some of the material presented in this issue. Send answers to and you will be eligible for a complimentary copy of Volume Two of The Summerset Review. All questions must be answered and received by December 1, 2010.”

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

"Concrete Particulars" by Sally McNall: Sample Poem from WHERE ONCE

Main Street Rag Publishing Company ( is publishing my friend Sally McNall’s book ( Where Once ) as part of its Poetry Book Award selections. The book is scheduled for release November 8 and will sell for $14, but you can get it now for $9 + shipping by placing an Advance Discount order at
MSR Online Bookstore's Coming Soon Page:
or, if you are more inclined to pay by check, they are $12.50 each including tax and shipping. Mail to Main Street Rag.  Here is a sample poem:


     for A

Yes, but in this book of horrors you refuse,
this documentation of systematic, categorical death,
writer and reader must step back, if only a step,
or tenderness could not touch the dead, as it must.

Remember the green eyes of the Afghani girl
on the magazine cover, at the beginning,
and how when they found her again,
well before the end, she was already old.
Remember the picture on the Internet?
We never saw her in the midst of life,
remember? So what do we have to go on
but the effort of thought in the unmapped darkness?
Sally Allen McNall has written and taught in Oregon, Arizona, Kansas (thirteen years), New Zealand, Ohio, and California. She was invited to be a member of Denise Low’s writing group in 1981, and began publishing poems regularly in 1985, when her youngest child left the house. She has published steadily since then in a wide variety of journals and magazines, off and online. Her chapbook, How to Behave at the Zoo and Other Lessons, was a winner of the State Street Press (Brockport, NY) competition in 1997, and her first book manuscript, Rescue, won the Backwaters Press Prize (Lincoln, Nebraska) in 1999. A chapbook, Trying to Write a Poem without the Word Blood in It, came out in 2005 from PWJ Publishing. Her new book is called Where Once. You will see sample poems and comments if you go to Main Street Rage and follow the above directions, or click on her Author’s page.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oct. 7 Celebrate Dead Poets Remembrance Day

1st Annual Dead Poets Remembrance Day, Nationwide Poetry Readings at the Gravesites of American Poets, October 7th, 2010.  
The holiday Dead Poets Remembrance Day will be held in locations around the nation October 7th. Fittingly, October 7th is the day that Edgar Allan Poe died. “We are launching this tour in order to encourage groups of people in every state to get together on October 7th to honor our dead poets by reading at their graves,” said Walter Skold, the founder of the Dead Poets Society of America. Among the reading sites are the graves of some of the most and least-well known poets in the US, including Robert Lowell, Donald Justice, James Whitcomb Riley, Lydia Sigourney, John Trumball, Henry Timrod, Abram Ryan, and Sarah Whitman. Denise Low, the former poet laureate of Kansas, is number 18 on the list of state poets laureate who are endorsing the celebration of Dead Poets Remembrance Day.

Great Bend, Kansas, Poetry Rendezvous: Take a Trip Sept. 17-19

I attended this a couple years ago, and it was memorable: great company, great poetry, great food. Great Bend has pure Great Plains air and many people who really care about literature. September 17-18-19, Poetry Rendezvous XXIII, A continuing tradition of the Art of Metaphor. Words crafted for listening, causing thought, exciting emotions. This year they are featuring "Everypoet." Come join the poets, wordsmiths and friends at the Barton Arts Gallery, 1401 Main St., Great Bend. E-mail  for more info about the Rendezvous or lodging, restaurants and airports. Contact George Martin or Michael Hathaway, editor of Chiron, 522 E. South Ave. , St. John, KS 67576-2212.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Summer" by Michael Poage

For most people this is
the final destination, only
a few continue on. The cat

spends all of each scorching day
in the empty bathtub. The dog
stretches out in front of

the fan and his fur moves
like a field of wheat in the summer
breeze. I lead a group of student

writers at the medresa through Berry’s,
“The Peace of Wild Things.” I ask:
What does ‘forethought of

grief’ mean? A young woman,
head covered, replies that to
her it is the anticipation

of something sad or a mishap.
Another student says, like falling
in love. Only a few continue on.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Call for Poems: Kansas History's "Kansas at 150" Special Issue

Deadline: November 1, 2010 In commemoration of Kansas's sesquicentennial in 2011, the magazine Kansas History will offer its readers a special "Kansas at 150" issue next spring. The essays in this issue will explore the theme of historical or collective memory as it relates to the identity and imagery of Kansas and/or the plains. To open this special issue the editors of Kansas History will select and publish the poem they feel best speaks to the issue's theme.

Submission Guidelines: Submit up to five (5) poems that explore the theme of Kansas and/or plains identity and imagery through historical or collective memory, either:

• by attaching a Word or RTF file to Identify your submission in the email subject line as "Poetry Submission": plus your full name;
• or by post, along with a self addressed stamped envelope, to:

Kansas Historical Society Attn: Kansas History, 6425 SW 6th Street, Topeka, KS 66615

Include your name, address, and email address on each page submitted by email or post. Cover letters are accepted but not necessary.

Simultaneous submissions will be accepted if they are identified as such and with the understanding that the author will notify Kansas History of acceptance elsewhere at the earliest possibly opportunity. We will not accept previously published material.

Kansas History: A Journal of the Central Plains, issued quarterly by the Kansas Historical Society, Inc., publishes new research on Kansas and central plains history and offers interesting, well-illustrated articles that appeal to both the serious student and the general reader.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Cyrus Console grew up in Topeka and currently studies creative writing in the University of Kansas doctoral program. He has worked as a metal worker and waiter as well as part-time instructor. His poetry returns to some of the oldest Anglo Saxon poetic traditions—delight in wordplay and riddles. He creates Rubik cubes made of his own subsets of vocabularies. Interlocking phrases suggest new structures, and readers enlarge their own vision by following Console’s playful, inventive constructions.

In this selection from Brief Under Water, whose title refers to Kafka’s Brief an den Vater (Letter to His Father), Console connects mathematical progressions on language. He labels each section of this long sequence of prose poems with binary-based numbers. This poem (40 in the decimal system) appears to begin with a salutation, “dear Dad,” informing him of a strong wind that rocked the “television antenna.” The last sentence is like a bookend to that suggested narrative—the narrator ends the story with a box kit broken in that same wind. Shifts in perspective, specifically elevation, continue throughout. Also, each sentence builds on the one before, with words repeated and shifted into different parts of speech. The word “wind” (breeze) twists (or winds, with a long “i”) throughout the poem’s beginning. The original connection of the two meanings of “wind” converge. At the end of this prose poem, “broke” is a verb with connotations referencing weather, cover, and sun emerging from clouds. Then Console ends with both words in the final: “windbreak.”

Brief Under Water: 100111

Dear dear, I put down, dear Dad, the great television antenna swayed in the wind. The meadow moved in long swathes under the wind. The wind swept the meadow around the cedars, as they were moss-grown rocks in a river of dry grass. In the wind the boys made a handsome tableau, their hair slanting vigorously from under their caps. The thick steel guys stood waves in the wind. Close by the anchors the wind came in towering chords. The wind fluted in the mouths of the gaping boys. Dead bees blew in the wind. Rain filled the sky. The rain pelted the rainwater, sheeting the meadow in incident light. The boys slowed at the line of trees. They walked into the trees. The trees surrounded the boys. The boys disappeared into the trees. The weather broke. The boys broke cover. The clouds broke up and the sun broke through. The box kite lay broken in a windbreak.

Education: Cyrus Console graduated from Topeka High School and attended the University of Kansas, where he received a BS in Organismal Biology (2000). He attended Bard College for the MFA in Writing (2004). He works on a PhD in the University of Kansas English Department.
Career: Console’s book Brief Under Water (Burning Deck 2008) is a collection of prose poems. His recent chapbook is The Song Cave (2009). He has won the Ana Damjanov Poetry Prize; Fund for Poetry Award; Victor Contoski Poetry Prize; and William Herbert Carruth Poetry Prize. He has published in Boston Review, No: A Journal of the Arts, Critical Quarterly, and Lana Turner. Recent readings include the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church, Big Tent series in Lawrence, and the Holloway Series at University of California, Berkeley.
©2010 Denise Low AAPP 46 ©2008 “Brief Under Water” by Cyrus Console © Paula Prisacaru photo

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

W.S. Merwin is new U.S. Poet Laureate

WS Merwin has been a Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress, Pulitzer Prize winner, translator, memoirist, and poet for over 50 years. As a young man he won a scholarship to Princeton, and after graduation he lived in Europe, which provided him opportunities for translation. He moved to Hawaii in the early 1980s, where he studied Buddhism and restored logged-over forest. He has remained connected to the momentum of US poetics through his prolific writings and tours. I remember meeting him in the early 1980s, when he read with vigor. No one in the audience dozed. I think of Merwin as a poet of conscience. He also has the ability to use the lyric form to wrench his reader emotionally. He sets up oppositions well, as in the beginning stanza of On the Subject of Poetry:

I not understand the world, Father.

By the millpond at the end of the garden

There is a man who slouches listening

To the wheel revolving in the stream, only

There is no wheel there to revolve.

This excerpt also shows how he prompts readers to look beyond the literal to the negative spaces in the picture. Merwin has a politeness in her diction, always, but never is he slack. For the rest of the poem and more on Merwin, see: the Academy of American Poets site:


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reading tonight at the Raven Bookstore will feature new edition of Kansas Poems of William Stafford


Edited by Denise Low

Commentary by Thomas Fox Averill, Kirsten Bosnak, Robert Day, Steven Hind, Jonathan Holden, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Denise Low, Al Ortolani, Linda Rodriguez, Ralph Salisbury, William Sheldon, Kim Stafford, Robert Stewart, Ingrid Wendt and Fred Whitehead

Publication Date: August 1, 2010
ISBN 978-0-9817334-6-3 Library of Congress Control Number: 2010925068
Perfect-bound paper edition, 210 pages, $15.00
Woodley Memorial Press, Washburn University Topeka, KS 66621

(785) 670-1445 http://www.washburn.ed/reference/woodley-press/
Woodley Memorial Press reissues an expanded edition of the 1990 Kansas Poems of William Stafford. Stafford, a National Book Award winner, wrote directly and indirectly about his home region throughout his life. The original edition collected many poems about the Great Plains region not published in book form. New essays, memories, poems, and interviews expand the range of the original book. They show the lasting influence of this beloved teacher and writer. Commentary by his son Kim Stafford and fellow writers show how his influence continues to inspire readers and poets everywhere.
Kim Stafford: You see his devotion to hometown, to friendship, to ideas, to peacemaking, sense of place.

Robert Day: I was Bill Stafford's student because I learned from him about writing and life: Do it all and do it all now.

Steven Hind: William Stafford’s words are both good poetry and good medicine, antidote to the poisons of self-aggrandizement and its blurring of perception. He is a tonic for the mind.

Jonathan Holden: Wiry, elfin, with the face of a fox, Stafford was curious about everything around him, absolutely alert.

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg: Stafford guides me as a writer when it comes to his quiet turns of language, his spare and precise images, his direct and earnest voice, but mostly he guides me as a human.

Denise Low: Stafford was a revolutionary decades before the Civil Rights movement. He committed himself to activist writings.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Poet Leslie Scalapino Dies May 31, 2010

Poet Leslie Scalapino has died. This prominent poet founded O Books, which published such authors as Ted Berrigan, Robert Grenier, Fanny Howe, Tom Raworth, Norma Cole, Will Alexander, Alice Notley, Norman Fischer, Laura Moriarty, Michael McClure, Judith Goldman and many others. Scalapino was a poet, playwright, editor, publisher, and teacher. She taught in the MFA program at Bard College, Mills College, the San Francisco Art Institute, California College of the Arts in San Francisco, San Francisco State University, UC San Diego, and the Naropa Institute. She received an MA from University of California-Berkeley.

There will be a memorial event for Scalapino at St. Mark’s Poetry Project on Monday, June 21st. Arrangements are being made for a Zen Buddhist funeral. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to: Poets in Need, PO Box 5411, Berkeley, CA 94705; Reed College for the Leslie Scalapino Scholarship, 3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, OR 97202-8199; The AYCO Charitable Foundation, PO Box 15203, Albany, NY 12212-5203 for the Leslie Scalapino-O Books Fund; or to a charitable organization of their choice.

from “walking person who has sky flowing–by one who beside is as if"

walking person who has sky flowing–by one who beside is as if

being backward by walking in life of people? but of one being 'defense-

less' by the huge–is elating which is time.

'I was by a bigger bird - inside' - walking

walking by (someone with the sky flowing) disturbed by being–

by it– . . . .

Friday, May 21, 2010


Billy Joe Harris, University of Kansas professor, spent a sabbatical year studying poets and painters, including artist Giorgio Morandi. He admires Morandi for “muted colors and radically reduced subject matter.” He employs this approach to his own verse. His work suggests narratives, but in such concise form that cultural referents may be minimal.

In the poem “Sympathetic Magpies,” the Chinese origin of the legend is secondary to the universal concept of bridges. Further, the stanzas’ own parallel lines suggest intervals of bridge girders. Love creates a bridge between mortal and immortal beings, and the interplay between heaven and earth are universal. The memorable magic here is the bridge made of magpies. The poem has parable-like directness, with love that can defy the decrees of heaven. Like bridges, romance between a young weaver and herder can be set in most times and places. The Milky Way itself is another kind of bridge. Then Harris shifts to present time, inviting readers to also become part of legends through the poem. With a few simple images—lovers, Heaven, and bridges—the poet creates a story, briefly outlined yet complete like a Morandi painting. Harris said of the painter: “His quiet visual drama tells you that you need no more than these few objects to tell the human story.” This also applies to “Sympathetic Magpies.”


There is an old Chinese legend
About a weaving girl and a cowherd
Falling in love and being punished
By Heaven because she was celestial
And he was a mere mortal

Heaven only allowed them to meet
Once a year
On the seventh day
Of the seventh month

The magpies were so sympathetic
Each year
On that day
They made themselves
Into a bridge
Stretching across the Milky Way
So the lovers could kiss

Poems are sympathetic magpies
Bridges between lovers
Bridges between selves
Bridges between worlds

Education: Harris received a BA in English (Central State University 1968), MA in Creative Writing (Stanford 1971), and PhD in English and American Literature (Stanford 1974).

Career: This poet and critic’s books are: Hey Fella Would You Mind Holding This Piano a Moment (Ithaca House 1974), In My Own Dark Way (Ithaca House 1977) and Personal Questions (Leconte Publishers, Rome, 2010). He has published in over fifty anthologies. He is the author of the critical work The Poetry and Poetics of Amiri Baraka (University of Missouri Press 1985) and editor of The Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1991, second edition, 2000).


©2010 Denise Low AAPP 46 ©2009 “Sympathetic Magic” by William J. Harris

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Robert Day's Committee to Save the World: Selected Nonliterary Nonfiction

If you have not yet read Robert Day's Committee to Save the World, with introduction by The Land Institute's Wes Jackson, do find a copy. Leo Oliva published it through Western Books (PO Box 1, Woodston KS 67675). This is one of the most engaging, honest, and funny descriptions of life between the Platte and Red Rivers; beween the Kaw and Sand Creek. Most essays are previously published in places like the Washington Post, New Letters, and Smithsonian. Day has one of the most engaging voices in contemporary belles lettres. He recounts the failed movie attempts to capture this part of the country in his essays about The Last Cattle Drive, his seminal novel--if you haven't read it, it eerily resembles Urban Cowboy. No accident. He also explains phenomena like Carrie Nation and genius-poet William Stafford from Hutchinson. He gives a participant-informer's insights into the culture of High Plains inhabitants, in contrast to Ian Frazier, who writes from a few summer tours of the place. Day grew up in small-town Kansas and still has a place in Luddell. He is cosmopolitan and local at once. It's a great combination. Wes Jackson writes: "Bob Day is a man of letters. But he is also a reincarnation of Don Quixote, Straight Arrow, Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger and Tom Mix." Color illustrations by Kathy Jankus Day embellish the book.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

HACKED INTO! I am not a Canadian Pharmacy Company!

Please disregard emails from my email account that encourage you to by personal products for men.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Anna Wiese is one of the poets celebrating Poet Robert Dana's career

Anna Wiese and John Rosecrance, friends of Robert Dana,  were among those who shared poems and memories with a filled auditorium at the University of Iowa on 27 March 2010. Wiese read "Elegy for a Hometown," about Dana's recent visit to his Massachusetts hometown after many decades. John Rosecrance, who swam daily with Dana for years, recalls his conversations with Dana. He also read "Selling the Earth and Everything on It," about a shared city commission meeting.
     After the memorial reading, on March 28, services were held at Cornell College, with music, readings, and words of remembrance by Leslie H. Garner (Cornell College preseident), Tom Lynner, Dan Kellams, Eric Houts, Ben Miller, Hugh Lifson, Jan Sellen McGrane, Don Morrill, Lori Dana, and Rick Campbell.
     Robert Dana was poet laureate of Iowa (2004-2008) and the recipient of NEA fellowships and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University. He was one of the first graduates from the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop. He was a veteran of World War II. He revived and edited the North American Review, and he published two dozen books of poetry and prose. As a teacher, poet, and conniseur of good living, he inspired friends in Iowa, Florida, South Carolina, and all the Associated Writers and Writing Program conferences he attended.
     His devotion to his wife Peg was one of the first comments I heard about him, and he celebrated this partnership as long as I knew him. He is survived by three children. A beautiful gray cat ("eleven pounds of smoke"), along with the rest of his family and spirit, remain in many poems.
     Publication information about Dana's New & Selected Poems is available at the anhinga press website. Photos in this series are by Denise Low, except the photo of Denise Low by Kathryn Kysar.

Dick Terrill reads at the Memorial Reading in Celebration of Robert Dana's New & Selected Poems

Dick Terrill reads "Spindrift" from The Morning of the Red Admirals (2004).

Nicholas Kogon and Tom Lynner read Robert Dana Poems, 27 March 2010

Nicholas Kogon, friend of Robert Dana, reads "After After," by Robert Dana. Tom Lynner, co-founder of the Des Moines Poetry Festival, reads "3:10. July. 2009." in place of Ingrid Wendt, who  could not attend the event.

David Hamilton shows the author photograph from Robert Dana's New & Selected Poems 1955 to 2010

Robert Dana (1929-2010) wears a flashy red turtleneck in one of these last photographs of the beloved poet. 16 poets read selections from his book to a large audience in Iowa City, University of Iowa campus. (Photo by Denise Low)

Iowa Friends and Poets Jay Johnson & Jim McKean Read Robert Dana Poems

Denise Low and Keith Ratzlaff Read Robert Dana Poems, Iowa City, 27 March 2010

Karl Ratzlaff looks at the audience at the Robert Dana (1929-2010) memorial reading from his new book of selected poems. Denise Low ends the reading with "Lines Written Below Eagle Cliff," a new poem from Dana's New & Selected Poems 1955 to 2010 (Anhinga Press)

Rick Ryan MCs the Memorial Reading in Celebration of Robert Dana's New & Selected Poems

Marvin Bell & Lisa Birnbaum at the Memorial Reading in Celebration of Robert Dana's New & Selected Poems 1955-2010

Marvin Bell reads "No. 19 Summer in a Small Town" from Robert Dana's book In a Fugitive Season (1979) at the memorial reading in Iowa City March 27, 2010. Lisa Birnbaum reads "How Pure a Thing is Joy" from What I Think I Know.

Rick Campbell at the Memorial Reading in Celebration of Robert Dana's New & Selected Poems 1955-2010

Rick Campbell, publisher of Anhinga Press, reads "Horses" from Robert Dana's book Starting Out for the Difficult World (1987) in Iowa City, March 27, 2010.

Monday, March 22, 2010



Dear Poetry Affectionados,

Congratulations to Kathleen Johnson, who has won the only 2009 recognition for a poetry book. from the Kansas Center for the Book in its annual awards, Notable Book List. The Kansas Center for the Book, a state affiliate of the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, features an annual list of 15 top Kansas books. It is a non-profit, tax-exempt program of the Kansas State Library. For more information, see

The KCFB said this about Johnson’s prize-winning book: “A book of poetry so hot it could only be named ‘Burn.’ Kansas poet Kathleen Johnson’s collection ranges from life on the frontier to memories at her parent’s home to tornados.” It is also a very literary book, with rich descriptions and wonderful use of language.

This Woodley Memorial Press (Washburn University) book is available at It is also available through online book companies. Johnson is also featured in To the Stars, Poets of the Ad Astra Poetry Project ( http://  ), the publication associated with this series on online poetry publications.
All best,
Denise Low, 2007-2009 Kansas Poet Laureate


Kathleen Johnson has loved Kansas poetry for decades. This has led her to read widely, pursue an MFA, and also to write reviews of regional and national poets. She wrote insightful, thorough reviews for the Kansas City Star for fifteen years. Now she edits the New Mexico Review in her new home of Santa Fe. Another aspect of her poetic skill set is her background in visual arts, with art history as an undergraduate major.

One of my own delights in poetry is visual images, and Johnson describes colors especially well. In “End of August,” I enjoy the cat’s “sapphire eyes,” but the poet expands the image further to include “sharp points” and “all twilight.” These detail the eyes as faceted, like a jewel, and dark, dark blue, like the evening sky. Other words that evoke colors are moon, sunflower, yellow, bluebirds, goldfinches, and black-eyed susans. This is a good poem for students of poetry to read, because of the use of specifics—the plants are ragweed, candelaria, sunflowers, mulberry, and black-eyed Susans to emphasize season and well as sensual presence. This also illustrates how poets research specificity when writing. Good poets do as much fact checking as journalists. Exactly what birds, animals, and plants herald the end of summer. This is more than fine description and revival of a scene. The last line transforms details into a theme: survival.

End of August

Tonight, while the half-moon hides
its dark side,
the Siamese tom stretches
black velvet paws,
claws splayed toward a dream:
he hunts, sapphire eyes
focused to sharp points,
all twilight
concentrated in his gaze.
Stealthy as a shadow, he curves
Through a creek-bank jungle
Of giant ragweed, candelaria,
sunflower stalks.
Yellow mulberry leaves litter the lawn.
From low branches,
bluebirds dive for insects.
Goldfinches search for seeds
in black-eyed Susans.
Baby cottontails munch in tall grass.
Quick eyes everywhere.

Education: Kathleen Johnson graduated from Olathe High School and attended the University of Kansas for a BFA in Art History (1985) and an MFA in Creative Writing (2008).
Career: Johnson’s first book Burn (Woodley 2009) was a 2009 Kansas Notable Book. As a freelance book critic specializing in poetry, she published more than sixty book reviews in The Kansas City Star (2002-2009). Her New Mexico Poetry Review website is:
©2010 Denise Low AAPP 44 ©2010 “End of August” and photo by Kathleen Johnson

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Rae Armantrout Wins National Book Critic's Circle Award for 2009

The NBCC just announced this evening that Rae Armantrout's Versed (Wesleyan University Press). She is professor at UC-San Diego

From the Book:

while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.

If we’re not copying it,
we’re lonely.

Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?

Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.

If we’re not killing it,
we’re hungry.

—from “Simple”

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rod Smith & Mel Nichols to read 7 pm Fri. 2/26 at 803 Mass.

803 Massachusetts Street, at Wonder Fair, above/below the old Casbah Market

Rod Smith is the author of Deed, Music or Honesty, Poèmes de l'araignée (France), The Good House, Protective Immediacy, and In Memory of My Theories. A CD of his readings, Fear the Sky, came out from Narrow House Recordings in 2005. Smith's work has appeared in a whole bunch of magazines and anthologies. He is editor and publisher of Edge Books, which has established an international reputation for publishing the finest in innovative writing. Smith is also editing, with Peter Baker and Kaplan Harris, The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley, for the University of California Press. He is currently a Visiting Professor in Poetry at The Iowa Writers' Workshop.

Mel Nichol’s most recent books are Catalytic Exteriorization Phenomenon (Edge Books, 2009) and Bicycle Day (Slack Buddha, 2008). She teaches at George Mason University.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Jeanine Hathaway teaches writing and literature at Wichita State University. Originally from Chicago, she settled in Wichita over thirty years ago. In her writings, she explores the intersections between knowledge and belief. She was a Dominican nun as a young woman, and this experience informs her work. Keen observation grounds her poems, which create situations for exploration of faith.
“Reconnaissance,” a title that is also a synonym for exploration, focuses on a woman who could be a neighbor “across the street.” I suspect she could also be a guise of the poet herself. Scenes in Hathaway’s poetry could be set in Wichita, but they are made more general, to fit experience of any reader. The woman forays into dark morning, a time that should be sunrise, but instead she is immersed in a sightless darkness that reveals only self. The woman is like a fish, awake yet submerged in watery depths. Her heartbeat centers her own “atmosphere,” again in a pre-dawn and pre-creation setting. Yet in this dark place, she finds two things: body and grace. These create the paradox of incarnation.


Before dawn, before the first
hushed light causes her children
to stir, the woman across the street
rises, every morning, extending
her life backwards into night
as a fish sated at the surface
will dive deeper and darker
until even sight is a memory
floating off.

She is alert now, aware of
herself as out of proportion,
mirrored through water;
expansive, most reflective
and faithful, and still
surrounded, governed
by the immense heartbeat
of her own atmosphere,
the unsettling grace of morning
and her cold feet.

Education: Jeanine Hathaway earned a BA in English (Siena Heights College, 1970) and an MFA in Poetry (Bowling Green State University, 1973).
Career: This poet published The Self as Constellation: Poems (University of North Texas Press, 2002, 2001 Vassar Miller Prize for Poetry). Her prose includes an autobiographical novel, Motherhouse (Hyperion, 1992) and monthly personal essays for The Wichita Times. She published in numerous DoubleTake, The Georgia Review, The Greensboro Review, River Styx, The Ohio Review, and The Best Spiritual Writing. Hathaway is a professor at Wichita State University and received the Wichita State University Regents' Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1993.
©2010 Denise Low AAPP 44 ©2002 Jeanine Hathaway “Reconnaissance,” in The Self as Constellation (University of North Texas Press).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Stan Lombardo Mesmerizes Raven Bookstore Patrons

Stanley Lombardo continues to publish readable translations of classical literature. His Iliad and Odyssey are vivid translations that emphasize dramatic storytelling. Ronald Myers descrbes his translation style as “minimalist and colloquial.” As a translator, Lombardo becomes the element of Mercury—a perfect catalyst who transforms one language to another, without drawing attention to himself. He returns these works to performance origins.

Lombardo performed selections from Dante’s Inferno at the Raven Bookstore ( ) Feb. 12 to a packed house. No one made a sound for the hour-long presentation, and the corner street musician’s saxophone was distant accompaniment. Lombardo punctuated the reading with a hand drum for ending points—unobtrusive emphasis. Also, he kept an almost subliminal beat as he voiced the lines. He spoke the beginnings in Italian, and then switched to English.

Here, from the net, is his opening:

Midway through the journey of our life
I found myself within a dark wood,
for the straight way had now been lost.
Ah, how hard it is to describe that wood,
a wilderness so gnarled and rough
the very thought of it brings back my fear.
Death itself is hardly more bitter;
but to tell of the good that I found there
I will speak of the other things I saw.

I cannot say just how I entered that wood,
so full of sleep was I at the point
when I abandoned the road that runs true.
But when I reached the foot of a hill
That rose up at the end of the valley
Where fear had pierced me through to the heart,
I lifted my eyes and saw its shoulders
already bathed in the light of that planet
that leads us straight along every path.
This calmed a little the lake of my heart
that had surged with terror all through the night
that I had just spent so piteously.

Ordering information: Dante. Inferno. Translated by Stanley Lombardo. Introduction by Steven Botterill. Notes by Anthony Oldcorn. 512 pp. Hackett Publishing Co. P.O. Box 44937, Indianapolis, IN 46244-0937. Audio versions are also available.

Lombardo has lived in Lawrence since 1976. He joined the University of Kansas Classics Department after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Texas-Austin. He has been an administrator—chair of the Classics Department and Director of the University of Kansas Honors Program. He is a serious practitioner of billiards and Kuan Um School of Zen Buddhism.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Iowa Poet Robert Dana Dies Feb. 6, 2010

I first met RP when he was a visiting writer at Wichita State University, early 1980s, through G. Barnes,a great promoter of the arts. He said I had to meet this guy, and we found him at an after-class party at a student's apartment. He was fun, witty, smart, and happy. I wanted to be like him, so I continued to read poetry.

He also read at the University of Kansas at the same time, and it was memorable. He discussed the works of Richard Hugo and his recent death. He read a delightful found poem from a camping catalogue about the pleasures of zipping together sleeping bags. Not long after, I attended my first Associated Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, and over the years of those reading-eating-chatting-dancing fests, I joined Dinners with Dana. Usually I would fast and save my per diem for the one ultimate meal at a restaurant he pre-selected. He was a personage, and I have warm memories of him from our meetings. He was generous and threw great parties for his AWP friends. Wife Peg's parents live in Lawrence, so I had the chance to meet them occasionally at the Eldridge for drinks. These are cherished memories.

Most of all, though, when I heard he had died, I regretted he will write no more poetry. My first thought was this loss.

I'll reprint part of a review I wrote about his 2004 book The Morning of the Red Admirals (Anahinga Press), to illustrate my appreciation for his work (the full review is at ):

"Robert Dana’s fifteenth book of poems is iconoclastic. “Part of the poet’s task was to break the rules of language, to free it from the burdens of its history, thus acknowledging that history and revivifying it,” he writes in Ploughshares (1991). That paradox lies at the heart of his own poetics. He chooses words with full awareness of their etymology and then realigns them into present-time currency. He procreates poems with fossilized words, as in “Garden Fable”:
Aristoxenus, the Hedonist,
watered his lettuce with wine
and honey, knowing the difference
between nothing and something
is not just something, but some-
thing special . . . . (19)
The transformation of the commonplace into ecstatic, koan moments of understanding— “something special”—through word spells is the gift of this poet. How wonderful to revive the name of this nearly forgotten Greek author who wrote about excesses of Persian kings (in Bíos Archyta). Dana goes on to include related classical words such as “conundrum” and “sluicing,” alongside Anglo-Saxon, fist-like words like “sodden,” “gutters,” “scrape,” “pelts” and “drays.” And perhaps this mixture of measured Latinate terms amongst the workaday old English is what makes another level of paradox in American English poetics, the tension between the civilized and the blunt. Finally, after the word duels, at the end of the poem we are in Iowa, the storm vanished, the sun forming a “sheen.” All poems resolve in transformed solids of this world."


Cornell college page with video

Prairie Lights Bookstore readings

Weber Studies interview with Guy Wade Lebeda

Boundoff MP3 file of reading

Anhinga Press website and book ordering information

Order 30 min. reading/interview with New Letters on the Air, July 2008 or 1980

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Joseph P. Wood and Clancy Martin read in Lawrence Jan. 23

Clancy Martin is Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. His first novel, How to Sell, was released in May from Firar, Straus, & Giroux, and will be translated into five languages. His fiction also has appeared in journals such as NOON, 5_Trope, and Parakeet. He has authored, translated, edited several books on 'existential' philosophy. He lives somewhere near Kansas City with his wife, three daughters, and 4 toy poodles.

He read 3 narratives, both fictive and memoir, although the verisimilitude was such that all sounded equally plausible. He writes about family life with precision--not always pretty, but always compelling. He took me back to the intensity of parenting, the primal, critical times when someone's life was in my hands.

Joseph P. Wood is the author of the forthcoming collection of poems, I & We (CW Books), and of five chapbooks, including the forthcoming Gutter Catholic Love Song (Mitzvah Chaps), Urgency (Cannibal Books) and A Severing (Cinematheque Press). New poems can be found in BOMB, Boston Review, Cannibal, Hotel Amerika, Poetry London, Sycamore Review, Verse, among others. He teaches at the University of Alabama, co-edits Slash Pine Press, and coordinates the Slash Pine Poetry Festival.
Wood started out as a normal guy but shifted into overdrive for a performance stabilized by rocking and regular intakes of breath. He started with a story about his Italian grandfather, a roofer, who fell into a vat of hot tar & died at age 35. This and references to culture were embedded within sheets of images and syntax. It created its own web, and it is hard to pull out single pieces to describe.