Saturday, October 15, 2011

First Draft: Denise Low essay on Ken Irby's Poetry

Sensory Type/Topographies: Ken Irby's Atlas to the World

Poetry icon Kenneth Irby creates texts of sensory topographies—and so he has changed the technology of the page. I remember his long-time publisher John Moritz of Tansy Press fussing about Irby’s long lines and the gap-toothed spacings and typography and original illustrations—all the ways Irby pushed the limitations of paper, ink, and bindings. This was decades ago, and I still see John grumbling as he midwived some of the most remarkable writing of our time. This has not gone unrecognized. The Poetry Society of America selected Irby as a co-recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award in 2010. This establishes him as a major poet among other winners—Robinson Jeffers, Marianne Moore, Robert Duncan, and Robert Creeley, to mention a few. Irby also won the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, a Fulbright Fellowship, and other honors. His collected poems, The Intent On (from North Atlantic Press) covers the years 1962 to 2006. The square-ish, dense tome is weighty until opened. Then dynamic axes of words rise from inert materials to assemble, within readers’ visionary faculties, myriad revelations of consciousness....
This is the start of a presentation I'm working on for the Nov. 5 celebration of Kenneth Irby (see events).

More details from the press release: KU faculty member Kenneth Irby turns 75 this year. In the tradition of other events acknowledging major figures in contemporary poetry, such as the May 7, 2011 celebration of Robert Kelly in New York City and that of Amiri Baraka in Newark, New Jersey in 2009, the Eberhardt Colloquium at the University of Kansas this year is in his honor and celebrates his astonishing oeuvre. Both national and local scholars and poets will examine Irby’s life and work through lectures and panels; poetry readings will celebrate his contribution to American Literature. The day will conclude with a poetry reading by Irby himself. Featured speakers and presentations include: Lyn Hejinian, UC-Berkeley, “We Might Say Poetry” Pierre Joris, SUNY-Albany, “Irby’s Very Own North Atlantic Turbine” Ben Friedlander, University of Maine, “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” Denise Low, Haskell Indian Nations University, “Sensory Typ/Topographies: Ken Irby’s Atlas to the World” Joe Harrington, University of Kansas, “Kansas &/or Oz, in the Poems of Kenneth Irby and Ronald Johnson.” The colloquium is sponsored by the Department of English, The Hall Center for the Humanities, the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and the Spencer Museum of Art. An issue of the online journal Jacket 2 will be devoted to the proceedings, as well as including other solicited essays, letters, and critical remembrances. The issue will be edited by William J. Harris and by Kyle Waugh, co-editor of Irby’s collected poems, The Intent On. This event is free and open to the public. For further information, contact William J. Harris (