Sunday, January 18, 2015, 4:00 pm Poets from across the country come together for a memorial celebration of Pulitzer Prize–winning poet and former Seattleite Carolyn Kizer. Readers include Willis Barnstone, Kevin Craft, Carol Muske-Dukes, Tess Gallagher, Judith Emlyn Johnson, Sierra Nelson, David Rigsbee, Tree Swenson, and Carolyne Wright. Co-sponsored by Hugo House, Copper Canyon Press, and Poetry Northwest. Visit Hugo House for more details, and to RSVP, here.
So pensively I watched him / Twist off the little toes, / A moment’s pain / To make you normal
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 …
Her work is agile and present, never miserable, lonely, oracular, or visionary, but even in her essay-precise oratory she acknowledges the counter-poetry, listens to it (albeit with a coldness, a Chekhovian coldness that brings me closer as a reader).
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.
Nothing by Design Mary Jo Salter Knopf, 2013 — Twenty years ago, Mary Jo Salter published Sunday Skaters, a very fine collection of poems that touches on themes and ideas that longtime readers would be likely to recognize as signature preoccupations (mother-daughter dynamics, elegy, history and historical figures, images of clocks, of hands, of snow; and a delight in unexpected double meanings that arise from having heard or read something wrongly). The book includes poems about her relationships with both her mother and her (then) young children, disoriented reflections on a year spent in Iceland, lighthearted and serious contemplations on marriage, her own as well as an alternately poignant and humorously aphoristic wedding benediction for an unnamed younger couple. Around the midpoint of Sunday Skaters there’s a poem titled “Two Prayers,” set in an airplane just before takeoff. The poem is quintessential Salter: self-effacing humor, puns, malapropisms and serendipitous mishearings – and her other throughline-preoccupation: a substrate (tarmac in this case) of existential dread. Speakers in Salter’s poems, always thoughtfully observed and compellingly human, often …
As summer burns to its dry end here in Seattle, we bring to a close our series of tributes to founding editor Carolyn Kizer with a look at a recently discovered poem. Featured in a recent article at the The Seattle Times, read “Jill’s Toes” (also in Poetry Northwest Spring/Summer 2011 v5.n2). Here’s hoping that with our contributors you’ve enjoyed revisiting the work of this essential writer. For a list of links to those contributors’ letters, essays and poems, visit here.