Wednesday, December 19, 2012

DENNIS KELLY, Seattle/Kansas Poet-Collagist , "Self Portrait"

Dred Scott
Dennis Kelly, poet and collagist, was raised in Emporia, Kansas, and resides in Seattle. He is author of books from Gay Sunshine Press and others. As this year winds down, here is a Baby Boomer's review of history, from a gay perspective.


It’s always sobering—
For an aging baby boomer
Like me to sometimes do
A little Self Portraiture

Outta the WW II womb—

And Great Depression
Viola! A bunch of us
Pampered spoiled brats

Drive In junkies—

We had cars back then
Postwar rug-rats and the
Whole world was ours
Hot Elvis the Pelvis—
Ducktail Rock & Roll!!!
Wild and Affluent youth
We had things to do!

Too good to be true—

They laid the nefarious
Viet Nam War on us to
Control our Generation

It seems like there’s—

Always intergenerational
Warfare going on between
Kids and parents
There were simply—
Too many of us wild
Turbulent youth so let’s
Have another War, dears!

And so they gave us—

Nixon and “Night of
The Living Dead” to put
Down our 60’s Libido

Body-bags and war—

Such dirty things but
What the fucking hell
War economies work!
“Love not War!” —
Proclaimed the Hippies
Counterculture protest &
Generational War began

It’s Still going on—

So many fucking wars later
Each generation faced with
The same denouement

NOW it’s gay lib’s turn—

We’re all just Fag slackers
“Bestiality” Bad Boyz the
Great Law scholars call us
Gay marriage approved—
Slowly state by state despite
DOMA declaring its sanctity
Ever So Heteronormative!

Salome does her lovely dance—

Oscar Wilde gets another chance
To dance with the Supreme Court’s
Esteemed Justice Antonin Scalia

“Heads” or Tails it’s bound to be—

The Dance of the Seven Veils
If only “Salome” Rita Hayworth and
Charles Laughton could be there
And so here I am, my dears—
Nothing but a minor little pawn
A mere Reductio ad absurdum
“Fallen Angel” it seems for now

Not that future generations—

Will even remember the trials
And tribulations of what’s coming
Down in this so-so legal soiree
My whole life now seems somewhat—
Caught up between two important
Legal cases: “The Dred Scott Decision”
With Blacks & me simply slave chattel

And “Brown vs. Board of Education 1954”—

Concerned with equal educational rights
And opportunities of African-Americans
And now GLBT citizens as well, my dears

Link to Dennis Kelly webpage:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Midwest Book Review comments on CONJURO by XANATH CARAZA

 "Small Press Boookwatch," published by The Midwest Book Review, has a review of Conjuro, with the comment "Conjuro is an extraordinary addition to Native American poetry collections, highly recommende." See more:

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


The Writers Place Reading featuring Richard Robbins, Piper Abnernathy, and Denise Low
 3607 Pennsylvania Avenue Kansas City, MO 64111 (816) 753-1090
Friday, Dec. 7,  7 PM – 9 PM  $3 members; $5 nonmembers; no one turned away for lack of funds

 Richard Robbins grew up in Southern California and Montana. He studied with Richard Hugo and Madeline DeFrees at the University of Montana, where he earned his MFA. He has published five books of poems, most recently Radioactive City and Other Americas. He has received awards from The Loft, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America. He directs the creative writing program and Good Thunder Reading Series at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He is vice president of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs national board.

Piper Abernathy is a poet and educator. She has a M.Ed. in Literacy from Rockhurst University and a MFA in Poetry from UMKC, and she taught high school locally for nine years. Piper is currently a regional coordinator for Poetry Out Loud and an adjunct instructor for Penn Valley. Her poetry can be found in Pleiades, Mid-American Review, Memorious, and the I-70 Review.

Denise (Dotson) Low is former Kansas Poet Laureate, with 20 published books of poetry, personal essays, and scholarship. She is a member of the national board of the Associated Writers & Writing Programs and was immediate past president. For 25 years she taught at Haskell Indian Nations University, and she has been visiting professor at the University of Kansas and University of Richmond. Currently she teaches courses for Baker University. She has awards from the NEH, the Lannan Foundation, The Newberry Library, the Academy of American Poets, and the Kansas Arts Commission. Her academic books include prose about Native and settler literatures of the middle plains region. She is on the national board of AWP as past president.
This is the first reading by Minnesota poet Richard Robbins in this area. Here’s a poem by him and more information. He is an original voice, with exquisite craft.

by Richard Robbins

The other one has tried to reach it
across the ocean of the shoulder,
tried to stop it from hitting, from sending
a man to death with a scribbled word.

The body wishes it would listen
more to the body, refuse for once
this urge to travel an alley without
eye, tongue, or the two versatile feet.

The heart, tomorrow, will have her way
with it. Like the bones of the rib cage,
so birds of the air. The river will turn
in its path, the blue ground angle up,

every millionth part of God conspire
to bring the right to answer for itself,
for all the hands that closed or waved away
the weak untouchable things, come now

to throne, to town, his own driveway on
their knees to be healed.

Richard Robbins is director of the  Good Thunder Reading Series and Univ. of Minn.-Mankato  M.F.A. Program in Creative Writing. His publications include: 

Other Americas, Blueroad Press, 2010
Radioactive City, Bellday Books, 2009,
Bellday Poetry Prize.
The Untested Hand, Backwaters P, 2008
Famous Persons We Have Known, Eastern Washington UP, 2000
The Invisible Wedding, U of Missouri P, 1984
Toward New Weather [chapbook], Frontier Award Committee, 1978
Where We Are: The Montana Poets Anthology [co-editor], SmokeRoot P, 1978




To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices, edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. A "renga" is a collaborative poem based on the Japanese haiku form, often about nature. In To the Stars Through Difficulties: A Kansas Renga in 150 Voices, poets in the chain take readers across the mythological as well as physical landscape of Kansas. Each poet begins with the seed of an idea from the poem before, writes, and leads the way for the next poet, all the way to the end. The group includes all poets laureate of the state, professional writers, and newcomers. Poets blend traditional and experimental approaches. The result is a unique chorale of beauty and surprise. The book follows the model of a similar United State poets laureate collection, Crossing State Lines, but with focus on one shared region. The writers celebrate startling beauty of the grasslands and its brilliant skies, including dimensions of reverie as well as plein air descriptions. The poets follow images and questions threading through the unfolding form of the renga, creating together one winding poem, a river of words on what place can and does mean. ISBN 978-0-9837995-9-7. Cover art by Lara Jost. 164 pages. Order through Pay Pal:
Order through publisher's website:
Order through Amazon or Barnes & Noble
Get it at the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence soon!

Friday, November 30, 2012

10 Poets among Kansas City Star top 100 books of 2012

Poets selected for the KC Star top 100 books include Julianne Buchsbaum, Heid Erdrich, Jack Gilbert, Lucille Clifton, Albert Goldbarth, Hadara Bar-Nadav, Natasha Trethewey, and Mary Jo Bang (translation of Dante's Inferno). Poets with nonfiction books that are in the list are Kevin Young (The Grey Album) and Gerald Stern (Stealing History).

I was honored to be one of 17 curators for this "best-of" list, edited by Steve Paul of the KC Star. You will see the KC-area and national perspectives represented in fiction, non-fiction, mystery, poetry, and young readers. See more details:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Painting & Poetry Salon Nov. 17, Sat. and "Flint Hills Lullaby" by Denise Low

"Flint Hills 1" by Thomas Pecore Weso

Here is a sample poem and painting for the Runaway Pony event and chapbook. Do join us at 603 Tenn., Runaway Pony B&B. 

     “A landscape has its own spirit; it is neither dead nor alive.”                                                                                         Thomas Weso

 My grandparents still live here.
They exist in grasses confused by western trade winds.

Even before they died they were ghosts.
Their lungs whooshed air of winter and summer storms.

The land is neither dead nor living but something
else. A third property. More.

White strata collapse into ruins at their moments of creation.
Processions of thunderheads tumble through empty counties.

I am alone here and I am caught in lay lines of gravity.
This is my birth and death, my continuum beyond names.

When space colors this place, that dark-moon hue of void,
may all our bones lie together, at rest in the dark.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Book Launch of Runaway Pony, poets respond to paintings by Tom Weso, 7 p.m. Sat. Nov. 17, 603 Tenn. St., Lawrence, KS

RUNAWAY PONY: An Anthology of Verse after Paintings by Thomas Pecore Weso is a collection of “ekphrastic poetry,” poems written about specific artworks. The collection commemorates an opening and reading at the Runaway Pony Bed and Breakfast, November, 2012. The vivid, acrylic and black-light paintings of Weso inspire diverse, award-winning authors, including:  
Diane Glancy, Julianne Buchsbaum, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Xánath Caraza, Silvia Kofler, Denise Low, DaMaris B. Hill, Allison Serina Hearn, James Benger, and Kevin Cummings.
Critic Mick Braa writes of Thomas Pecore Weso’s paintings: “He paints mostly bright, high-contrast colors to records what he has discovered, borrowing styles and figures from varied Indian art traditions to symbolize what he sees senses, and learns. Forms can switch back and forth between foreground and background, perhaps illustrating our constantly changing sensations of place, spirit and things in between.”  (Lawrence Magazine 2012)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Government Funding for Poetry: The Latest on the National Endowment for the Arts Budget

With new constellation of fiscal issues in DC, the future of funding for the arts, including poetry, is serious. One of the most effective advocacy groups is Americans for the Arts Action Fund, which has a useful website full of facts about economic as well as personal benefits of the arts.   One of the most active spokespersons for the arts is David Fenza, executive director of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs and poet (recent work in American Poetry Review). He sent out this commentary about the election aftermath:

 “What's mainly changed in arts advocacy is that the House has a few more rookies, and more rookies who are smaller-government zealots. The NEA and Americans for the Arts have never done a better job in quantifying the economic and educational benefits of the arts. But these many studies hold no sway over the advocates of smaller government in the House. The Senate, however, will continue to serve as the saucer into which we may pour the fulminations of the House to cool, to echo George Washington.

 "The automatic "sequester" budget cuts remains the biggest threat to the NEA, and the possibility of Congress triggering another recession is probably the biggest immediate general threat to arts organizations, to arts education, and to AWP. Tax reform may also diminish the incentives for charitable giving to arts organizations, but Congress seems incapable of addressing tax reform expeditiously.

 "The sequester, the federal budget, tax reform, and the federal debt ceiling all require immediate attention. Just one of these issues, in the past, has been enough to inspire Congress to enact a spectacle rather than a compromise. Unfortunately, rough handling of the sequester, debt ceiling, or tax reform could trigger a recession. Probably, Congress will pass legislation to defer the sequester and then pass a continuing resolution to fund government at last year's levels--rather than make a new budget--while they renew some or most of the Bush tax cuts for a limited duration in a stop-gap half-measure. For Congress, it's always best to postpone till next year whatever requires compromise this year.”

Thanks to Fenza for permission to reprint his lucid summary. For more information, see  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Review of Hadara Bar-Nadav's new book THE FRAME CALLED RUIN

Hadara Bar-Nadav, director of creative writing at University of Missouri-Kansas City, is on a roll with this book, her first one A Glass of Milk to Kiss Goodnight (Margie Book Prize), and the next book, Lullaby (with Exit Sign), winner of the 2012 Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize for 2012. Recently she read at the Raven Bookstore Big Tent reading, Oct. 25, and I heard her voice in person--energizing the verse. She mentioned her poodle, which I was not able to work into the review, although I wanted to--indeed a poodle is a sub-motif. My review of The Frame Called Ruin, "Rewriting the Rules of Poetry," looks at poetic structures as formulae, perhaps a stretch (see what you think?), but it gave me an entry point into the work:
"Mathematicians posit infinite dimensional spaces that can be plotted with numbers. In her second full collection of poetry, The Frame Called Ruin, Hadara Bar-Nadav explores word-based worlds beyond the read of traditional verse." For the entire review, go to:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Walt Whitman's "Election Day, November, 1884"

Election Day, November, 1884
Walt Whitman

If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show,
'Twould not be you, Niagara—nor you, ye limitless prairies—nor your huge rifts of canyons, Colorado,
Nor you, Yosemite--nor Yellowstone, with all its spasmic geyser-loops ascending to the skies,
     appearing and disappearing,

Nor Oregon's white cones--nor Huron's belt of mighty lakes—nor Mississippi's stream:
This seething hemisphere's humanity, as now, I'd name—
     the still small voice vibrating—America's choosing day,

(The heart of it not in the chosen—the act itself the main, the quadrennial choosing,)
The stretch of North and South arous’d-sea-board and inland-Texas to Maine—
     the Prairie States—Vermont, Virginia, California,
The final ballot-shower from East to West—the paradox and conflict,
The countless snow-flakes falling—(a swordless conflict,
Yet more than all Rome’s wars of old, or modern Napoleon’s:) the peaceful choice of all,
Or good or ill humanity—welcoming the darker odds, the dross:
—Foams and ferments the wine? it serves to purify—while the heart pants, life glows:
These stormy gusts and winds waft precious ships,
Swell’d Washington’s, Jefferson’s, Lincoln’s sails.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Guest Blog: Review of MariJo Moore's A BOOK OF CEREMONIES

By Suzanne Zahrt Murphy.
Review  of A Book of Ceremonies and Spiritual Energies Thereof by MariJo Moore (rENEGADE pLANETS pUBLISHING, 2012). by Suzanne Zahrt Murphy
In a land that cherishes “big,” we could be fooled to think that the slenderness of this book, written by a woman who is Cherokee, Dutch, and Irish, about personal spiritual ceremonies, is of minor significance.
In fact, it is quite significant. MariJo has identified a need, and, with much concern and wisdom and energy, she has brought forth this little book with the blessing of the late Vine Deloria Jr., and others who have followed her work. She tells us why we need ceremony:
Ceremony is a necessary act to obtain or regain balance with the Spiritual Energies of the universe. The purpose of ceremony is to integrate: to merge one with all of humankind as well as the realm of the ancestors, to blend one with all of creation.”
MariJo Moore's work has always had a spiritual source. Her first books, centered upon nature, gave us small yet powerful inspiration found from her visits to the desert, her kinship with crows, her relationship to trees. In these books, her Native American ancestry and knowledge of the circle of life reminds us to accept all creatures, and that we are only a part of the totality of life.
Our relationship to our spirituality is an always present theme in all of her work, including: Red Woman with Backward Eyes – a book of short stories; The Diamond Doorknob, in which a mixed blood woman discovers her need to develop and love herself before she can accept the love of others . . . .   See the rest of this review at this link:
Suzanne Zahrt Murphy is a writer, artist, and nurse educator. She is of Cherokee, German, Swedish and Scottish heritage and resides in Albuquerque, NM. Her forthcoming book is titled As We Tumble on Your Plain.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Talk, Drink, Eat: Writers Conference Poem by Kevin Rabas

I heard Kevin Rabas read this poem about what really goes on at writers' conferences--indeed, many conferences. As AWP board member and former conference chair, I have seen the hard work staffs and organizers put into conferences. First-rate programming is the first step, and the second step is to make sure the bartenders are ready for sober and less sober writers who spend long hours congregating. Despite warnings the bar in Chicago ran out of some essential supplies, for example. People who use words for a living love to talk--no surprise. Talk, Drink, Eat. This poem, from Kevin's forthcoming book Sonny Kenner's Red Guitar (Coal City 2013) is about one writer group's expedition out of the conference hotel to find local flavor:

When the Writers Gather and Drive
                                   AWP Austin, for Amy Sage Webb
Amy, a foodie, says she knows about this great place
 outside of Austin, and we gather around my car
in the Hilton parking garage, which is lit like a cave.
We cant get the childs seat out, and so Amy volunteers
 to sit in it. I have on my first pair of roper cowboy boots
 since I was 12, and I floor it, unintentionally, and we barrel
 out of the Hilton parking garage and into the purple Texas night,
 four writers looking for fine food on the outskirts of town,
 down and around lots of curves and rises and falls in the road,
 Amy, perched like a baby bird, in my toddlers child seat.
 Like a scene from Wonder Boys, movie of writers and their cars;
 Grady Trips trunk holds a dead dog, a tuba, and a set of suitcases perfectly,
 just like in the ad. Although Im driving, Amy is in the lead, saying,
 Go left here. Now straight through the next two lights. Now right.
 Bart is in the backseat with Amy, and he says, There are almost no
 families with siblings who are writers. The Bronte Sisters,
 the Brothers Grimm, they are the exceptions. Were alone
 in our families. But were all brothers and sisters here, someone says,
 and Jeffrey tilts his ballcap back, and I step a little harder on the pedal,
 and we scale a series of small curves. Like a rollercoaster climbing, we make our way
 up the mountain and to the restaurant that looks like a cabin from the outside.
 Inside, its finer than the Ritz, and we take shots in the entrance,
 using my disposable camera, pulled from a pocket and snapped into light.
 This is the life you never hear of, the once a year gathering of the birds,
 of the tribe. There are a bunch of us, say 8000. But we live all over
 the country, and there seem to be no two in one town, people who choose paper
 over television, legal pad and quick pen script over that email or Facebook
 youre just dying to write, people who watch and write down what
 the neighbors do and do not do, who record the town, in secret, for about 35K a year,
 and sink into ecstasy when a small press picks up what they have written
 and prints it, and it stays in print, in a few libraries and in the homes of friends,
 decades after the writer passes, a record, a sketch of that time, traced and retraced
 until it almost takes on paint, the way revision works. Someone spent a lifetime
 writing and rewriting a moment, a scene depicting your life, and that someone
 is speeding down curves, in a loaded car, full of wine and fine food, the best meal
 they may ever have had, and that is the way of it, once a year, when the writers gather,
 Webb in the coxswain spot, giving directions, as the car sways and rumbles, writes
 its way into the oncoming night.
Kevin Rabas co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University and is co-editor of Flint Hills Review. He has two books of poetry, Bird’s Horn and Other Poems (Coal City Review Press) and Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano (Woodley Press), a Kansas Notable Book and Nelson Poetry Book Award Winner. He is a winner of the Langston Hughes award for poetry. "When the Writers Gather and Drive" reprinted with permission of the author. It was first published in Blue Island Review.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

"On Poetry" online KC Star: James Tate, Lucille Clifton, Wendell Berry, & C.P. Cavafy

My recent column reviews new collections by these distinguished poets! It begins:
"A poet’s collected works is a type of autobiography. The first section, the earliest books, often sets the direction of style, themes and even personal details. James Tate’s much anthologized poem “The Lost Pilot,” in his debut book from the late 1960s, is an example. Indeed, it is about Tate’s father, who was killed in World War II. The overlap of verse and biography charges the poem with electricity. Midcareer books of poems develop themes further and, if the poet is good, add depth. Finally, the last poems are the culmination, where verse gains patina or dulls.

Exceptional poets inspire editors to compile the poets’ work for the future. Among those whose collected or selected works have been published recently are Tate, a former Kansas Citian;  the late Lucille Clifton, an African-American woman whose work centers on justice; Wendell Berry, an activist farmer-poet;and C.P. Cavafy, an Egyptian poet of the Greek diaspora. All these versifiers continue to influence poets today.
James Tate
Publicity photo by Stephen Long
Tate, who grew up in Raytown, has won the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award and other major recognition for his sleek, off-balance compositions. His new “Eternal Ones of the Dream: Selected Poems 1990-2010,” a late-career book, narrates plausible situations that go awry. He continues surreal monologues in which he could be the narrator until facts do not add up. Tate takes ordinary expressions and turns them into comedy. “I love my funny poems,” he says in an interview with poet Charles Simic in the Paris Review, “but I’d rather break your heart.” Most of his poems do both."

Read more here:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

See Lenape Code Presentation! Oct. 24, Park University

Product Details Dr. Denise Low-Weso, former Kansas Poet Laureate, has published over 20 books of poetry and essays, including Ghost Stories of the New West (Woodley), named one of the best Native American Books of 2010 by The Circle of Minneapolis and a Kansas Notable Book. Low is a 5th generation Kansan of mixed German, British, Lenape (Delaware), and Cherokee heritage and earned an MFA from Wichita State University and a PhD is from the University of Kansas. She teaches in the Baker University School of Professional and Graduate Studies, freelances, and consults. She has taught at Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Kansas, and the University of Richmond. She is a 2008-2013 board member of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs, which she has served as president. Low has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, The Newberry Library, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kansas Arts Council, the Sequoyah National Research Center, and the Kansas Center for the Book. She is currently at work on a USA Artists project, The Lenape Code: Explorations in Delaware Arts, about the continuity of Algonquin traditions across time and geographies.

October 24, 2012Park University
The Meetin' House
Parkville, MO 64152
6:30 Reception
7:00 Reading