Archives

David Rigsbee: “Still Cool – Re-reading Kizer’s Collected

Cool, Calm & Collected: Poems 1960-2000 Carolyn Kizer Copper Canyon Press, 2001 When Kizer’s Cool, Calm and Collected: Poems 1960–2000 (Copper Canyon Press, 2001) weighed in at a whopping 400 pages, readers were surprised both at the prolixity and the heft. Organized by decade rather than by publication, Kizer’s book seemed a recognition of the formal unfolding and elemental power of chronological narrative, and was in effect a wager that the justice of time transcended time’s erosions. Against the calm suggestiveness of classical entablature, framing the caryatids of her youth, there now stands, thanks to the block layout of contents, five decades worth of work, in which spin the demotic rush of particulars, of facts. As if in answer to Robert Lowell, who once wondered why invention had to be seated ahead of “what happened,” the march of poems in Kizer’s Collected alternates between lyric and narrative (with the latter seeming to take up more space in later years), dramatizing the most recognizable dynamic in her poems: the actual, remembered past confronts the idealization of …

In Memory of Carolyn Kizer

We learn this weekend the sad news that Carolyn Kizer, a founding editor of Poetry Northwest, has passed away. She touched many lives as a poet, mentor and friend, and we’d like to share with you a few recent pieces that sing her praises: David Rigsbee recalls one telling moment with his friend and mentor and transforms another. Martha Silano appreciates Kizer’s “Pro Femina” and Katrina Roberts admires her singular voice. Former student Barbara Baldwin remembers her dignity and humor. Our Spring & Summer 2011 print issue was devoted to a collective appreciation of Carolyn Kizer’s life and work, and we will share with you more from its pages here in the coming days. Read the first of these features here.

Patricia Lockwood: “History of the House Where You Were Born”

I was reading some Alice Munro, buzzing out of my mind on P.G. Tips. Alice Munro was describing a woman in an Observation Car looking out at the vast Canadian prairies. “What the heck is an Observation Car,” I said to myself. (I find that as a writer it often helps not to know what anything is or what it looks like, because then you can just imagine whatever you want.) So I pictured a big bovine caboose meandering serenely across the grasses, enormous glass windows for its eyes. “Oh my gosh what would its steaks be like, oh my gosh what would its jerky be like?” I wondered, and pictured the Observation Car shot dead and lying on its side. I’d been thinking a lot about prairie towns and railroad towns and small towns in general, and I’d been thinking a lot too about the concept of specialty stores: model train stores that sell you both the railroad and the small town itself; and frame stores with their hanging disembodied rows of gold and …

J. W. Marshall: “Steilacoom and South”

Late summer, and even the gods need a little R&R.  J. W. Marshall shares a few thoughts on this poem’s experience: I find I’m liking local poems as long as they are not shackled to an incident. And I like experiential poems when the experience happens within the reading/writing of the poem, not when the experience is something the poem points to from a distance. And I like thinking of the poem as an excursion, like a train ride, getting on at the first word and off at the last. Steilacoom and South does report an experience on a Seattle to Portland Amtrak ride but hopefully the ride on the poem is three dimensional, four counting time, in and of itself. — Steilacoom and South We were gods on holiday who’d stumbled on a local god at work. Until then no one had been loud. Look at that! the boy said and we who swam along with him inside the Amtrak Coach did look. A man stood in a boat as ingenious as a button in a button hole. The sun threw echoes all …

On Kizer: “Her Own Woman”

In recent weeks, we’ve been publishing tributes to Poetry Northwest founding editor, Carolyn Kizer.  We’ll post additional material throughout the spring: for additional features in the series, please visit here.  Here, we continue with a spirited admiration, by Martha Silano, of Kizer’s ability to express and measure the inadequacy of “man’s / Ingenious constructions.” — I was in my mid-20s, living in Portland, Oregon, and newly enrolled in my first poetry writing workshop at Portland State University. My teacher, the wonderfully avuncular Primus St. John, gently broke the news, with each poem I brought to class, that I wasn’t quite yet Sappho. I wasn’t titling my poems, claiming I was following in the footsteps of Emily Dickinson, but when Primus shook his head and laughed at this defense, I took his advice. In retrospect, it makes sense that I would be taking my cues from Dickinson. Having just spent four years at a prestigious liberal art college in the Midwest, I received my BA in English without being asked to read or analyze a single …

Spring & Summer 2011 – The Carolyn Kizer Issue

The Spring-Summer 2011 issue is a special one for us. In it we pay tribute to Founding Editor Carolyn Kizer, with previously unpublished material, and commentary honoring her place  in American letters. Featuring: David Rigsbee, Daniel Lamberton, Rose Solari, Joelle Biele, and Ed Skoog New Poems: Carolyn Kizer, Mary Jo Salter, Amy Greacen, Matthew Rohrer, Debora Greger, and many others… On Kizer: Katrina Roberts: “The Substance of Song” Martha Silano: “Her Own Woman” A Letter from David Rigsbee Carolyn Kizer: “Jill’s Toes” At Poetry Northwest Community: David Rigsbee: “Zum” A Student’s Loving Portrait

On Kizer: “The Substance of Song”

In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of tributes to Poetry Northwest founding editor, Carolyn Kizer.  We’ll post additional material throughout the spring: for additional features in the series, please visit here.  We are very pleased to open with an appreciation by Katrina Roberts of Kizer’s hard, sweet music. — I’ve long been struck by the final gesture in Carolyn Kizer’s poem “Lines to Accompany Flowers for Eve,” addressed to one who’s tried to take her own life: “No Way of knowing its strength, or your own, / Until you lie quite still, your perfect limbs / In meditation: the spirit rouses, flutters / Like a handkerchief at a cell window, signaling, / Self-amazed, its willingness to endure.” We’ve recently lost important poets—great women—to suicide. Their tragedy reminds us the world is hard, indeed, and unfair to so many women in countless ways. And also that an individual life, even one apparently lovely, is simply inscrutable. I’m buoyed at least by the sustaining insights these poets have left in their stunning, tumultuous wakes. …

Martha Silano: “Ours”

With the Spring issue of Poetry Northwest soon on its way, we bring  you a taste of what’s to come.  In “Ours,” Martha Silano puts her eye to the lens of our own sphere.  She writes: I’m not the first person who’s longed to write a poem where Earth and its inhabitants are presented to a being who has no clue about us, and for years I thought about letting loose my inner Margaret Mead right here on my own home turf. My initial attempts to create anthropologist-like poems failed, perhaps because while they shared cool stuff about our “lil” planet, they didn’t add up to much. These failed attempts taught me that I needed to push beyond mere pond side/ highway median reportage. As I began “Ours,” I fell into conveying a more furtive stance which quickly became a shaping mechanism for the poem—I was amused and intrigued by our business-as-usual systems of greed, waste, and overconsumption . . . and war-making.  But more importantly, I was pissed. As I wrote this poem, I …