Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Denise Low reviews Jo McDougall's Collected Poems for the KC Star

The Kansas City Star generously supports area writers. This week they published my review of Jo McDougall's new collected poems, which begins:
""Jo McDougall has inspired readers with her work for more than 30 years. Her collected poems, In the Home of the Famous Dead, presents all her books, from 1983 through 2010. McDougall, a 20-year resident of the Kansas City area, now resides in Arkansas. Both places recur in the writings. Each poem is an essential lesson about how to find joy in this beautiful but blemished existence.
"McDougall teaches readers how to view landscapes. She presents stark panoramas, then adds a human dimension. In “Driving Alone,” the briefly sketched setting evokes enormity: “Sunset takes the light, the sound.” The title sets up the drama of loneliness as the poem develops a story: “She reaches for the radio, / already on.” This woman is adrift in a car. The solitary journey is familiar, a shared metaphor for life itself, and also a very real emotion. . . ." 
Purchase online or through the University of Arkansas Press:
In the Home of the Famous Dead: Collected Poems, by Jo McDougall (250 pages; University of Arkansas Press; $24.95, $49.95 cloth)

Saturday, June 20, 2015


Susan Rieke’s Ireland’sWeather mixes all the mythic beauty of Ireland with clear-eyed observations. Contemporary sights mingle with ageless natural wonders. Even a commonplace experience like dawn becomes extraordinary as  the poet notices how “the sun tilts with a side grin.”  Travel with this writerly companion to a landscape populated with robins, crows, bees, and “old demons.” The journey will change everything.

Cover art, Thomas F. Weso, art:, “Blue Storm,” private collection, Washington D.C. 2 illustrations by Thomas F. Weso. Published by Mammoth Publications. ISBN 978-1-939301-77-2
A Moon Slice
A moon slice opens evening’s gate, waning
into clouds. It cannot blaze like the sun,
but quiet night counts on her cold.
Velia, witch of the wood, weaves magic.
The moon creates again a light waltz
whose steps never fail.                                
A land of few sunrises and sunsets shouts
for attention when the moon mounts the sky.
Crows form a front team.
They command respect for this white goddess
who obliterates gray
and dark recesses of memory.
Order online  $10.00, the Susan Rieke author tab. To order multiple copies or for inquires, contact mammothpubs [at]  Order by mail: 1916 Stratford Road, Lawrence, KS 66044.  

Monday, June 15, 2015


The book launch for Jeff Tigchelaar’s first book, Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour, will be June 19, 2015, 7 The Raven Book Store, 6 E 7th St, Lawrence, Kansas. Do not miss this fine poet if you are in the area!

I first met Jeff Tigchelaar when he won the prestigious Langston Hughes literary award for poetry in 2010. As a judge, I saw a good sampling of his writings. At the presentation, I asked about his name, which I could not spell worth a darn—it is Dutch for “tile-layer.” This demystified the name even if it created more questions about Dutch triplings of consonants and doublings of the same vowel. Tigchelaar, born and raised in Michigan, is a former newspaper reporter, editor, and stay-at-home dad. After residing in Lawrence, Kansas, he is moving with his family to West Virginia (2015).

His writing is deceptively simple with sophisticated line breaks that tilt his ideas one way and then another. He can begin with ordinary moments, like take-off on a runway, and subvert the normalcy into surreal images. “Fly Frontier,” below, reframes flight and creates further drama, as though the passenger carrier were a space “capsule.” Then he shifts to the bizarre image of a “yawping wolf,” an ordinary logo, perhaps, but seen in context of a death-defying flight, it adds a sinister tone. Tigchelaar keeps pushing the nightmarish quality of the experience as the plane is “drastically tilting” and the “slide” wing could lead straight to disaster. The narrator sidesteps the drop into an abyss at the end with an adroit shift to the conditional, the what-if. He finds “light” at the end of “darkness.” For another day, the poet and the reader both escape mortality. The title, the “New Frontier” of John F. Kennedy as well as the “Final Frontier” of Star Trek, resonates with layers of cultural suggestions.

Fly Frontier

I’m in a manmade capsule hurtling through the sky
so if I die I probably deserve it.
It’s early
and still dark, but Kansas City
is all lit up. There’s a yawping
wolf outside my window
painted on the wingtip,
eyes closed, muzzle up, how whimsical.
No, how foreboding. And why is it so
choppy? God, we’ve only
just taken off. Now we’re drastically tilting
and the plane wing looks like a slide.
If this were a dream, I’d step out
and plunge into the darkness of a Monday
and fall until everything was light.

                                                © 2015 Jeff Tigchelaar, reprinted with permission

Full disclosure—I blurbed this book, and I’m happy Eric McHenry, Jim Daniels, and Wyatt Townley joined me in support of this fine writer. My comments were: “Jeff Tigchelaar speaks directly to his readers about politics, moral choices, and the beauty he finds in an imperfect world. This debut collection shows a poet ready to suggest solutions. Join him as he makes a difference.” Yes, Tigchelaar is a poet with lots of layers working at once. Woodley Press of Topeka published Certain Streets at an Uncertain Hour, available online for $12.00 and at the Raven Bookstore in Lawrence.

Tigchelaar blogs for XYZ Topeka Magazine and publishes poetry widely. His poems have been published in Kansas, Canada, Germany, and Wales, as well as on bar coasters. Journal publications include Pleiades, Coal City Review, Flint Hills Review, Flyway, Fugue, Rhino, North American Review and The Laurel Review, and anthologies such as Best New Poets 2011, Verse Daily, A Ritual to Read Together: Poems in Conversation with William Stafford, and New Poetry from the Midwest. His work received a fellowship from the Ohio Arts Council. His poem “One Way of Looking at Thirteen Blackbirds” was reviewed at  More information is at his website, and
His blog Stay-at-Home Pop Culture, is published by XYZ Magazine in Topeka

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Library of Congress Announces Juan Felipe Herrera as U.S. Poet Laureate

From the Library of Congress website:

Juan Felipe Herrera was born in Fowler, California in 1948. He is the author of 28 books of poetry, novels for young adults, and collections for children, including “Half the World in Light: New and Selected Poems" (2008), winner of National Book Critics Circle Award and the International Latino Book Award. His other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, two Latino Hall of Fame Poetry Awards, and a PEN / Beyond Margins Award. Elected a Chancellor for the Academy of American Poets in 2011, Herrera served as the Poet Laureate of California from 2012-2015.
Herrera, the 21st Poet Laureate, will take up his duties in the fall, opening Hispanic Heritage Month at the Library with a reading of his work at the Coolidge Auditorium on Tuesday, September 15th.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Spaces Are Available for a Day-long Writing Workshop with Denise Low 6/27/15 Sat. Lawrence

Because of interest in my upcoming workshop in Santa Fe, July 11, people in the Lawrence/KC area
have asked me to offer the same opportunity June 27, Saturday, 10-4. We meet at 9:30 for coffee, work til 4, then end with a social hour (optional). Poetry or short prose are both fine. My professional workshop students have had good success with my coaching, especially revision insights. Here's a link for full information: