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

Thursday, September 13, 2012


One of the characteristics of Native writing is its immediate engagement with history. A corollary is the simultaneity of past, present, and future. Mi’kmaq Métis author Alice Azure, in her new book Games of Transformation, illustrates the fluidity of time. The entire book is about the pre-contact city Cahokia, a trade city just off the Mississippi River at St. Louis. Over a hundred mounds remain, despite farming.

The poem “Moon of Blinding Snowstarts with a winter scene, then shifts into another dimension. This poem begins with strong imagery, as “snow and sleet whack at my house.” This is a typical Midwestern scene. Then it shifts, in the second stanza, to the time of Cahokia. She describes the winters of those days, and their cost in fuel. This shifts into contemporary worries about the future. As winter season begins in the Midwest, this poem has important alarms for everyone. It also asserts a Native presence. Critic Siobhan Senier writes of Games of Transformation: “she subverts the US national imaginary by calling into being a Native community and a Native future” (MELUS 37.1,2012).

 This is an important book for all who dwell on Earth. It shows an engaged, ethical traveler through all times.

Moon of Blinding Snow

Layers of sweaters don’t keep me warm
as snow and sleet whack at my house.
The cat and I hunker down in front
of our wood-burning fireplace,
while the weatherman announces
record-breaking snow.
After Cahokia’s five thousand campfires
burned day and night for two hundred years,
after the trees were gone from the land,
how did the ancients keep themselves arm?
After the ice caps, ethanol and oil go bust,
will the polar bears, cat and I
be lucky to find enough dry land
to sustain trees and corn—a fire or two?

 Alice Azure’s writings have appeared in a number of journals and anthologies such as The Florida Review; Native Literatures: Generations; and Yellow Medicine Review. Her recent book of poetry Games of Transformation (Chicago: Albatross Press, 2011) won the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers 2012 poetry award. Her memoir, Along Came a Spider (2011), is from Bowman Books. She grew up in the Connecticut River Valley—Cromwell, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts—and earned an M.A. degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Iowa. A Mi’kmaq Métis, her roots are in the Kespu’kwitk District of Nova Scotia. She lives in Maryville, Illinois, close to her four grandchildren. See her website at