By Dr. Eric Lee
The Creative Writing School of Arizona Western College is proud to announce that National Book Award Finalist and acclaimed poet David Kirby will visit the College for our Distinguished Visiting Writer Series.
Born in a land known for its bayous and voodoo, David Kirby's poetry can cast a spell more powerful than any dark magic. Over a long and distinguished literary career spanning more than 40 years, David Kirby has cultivated a reputation as one of the hardest working and most entertaining readers in the country. Don't take my word for it, though: recently, the Florida Humanities Council awarded Kirby the Lifetime Writing Achievement Award.
"David Kirby is one of Florida's literary treasures," the judges said. "His poems and essays show how craft, humor and insight can create enduring works of art."
It's true. Kirby's best poems exhibit a mind combusting high-octane rocket fuel, capable of pondering high-culture renaissance art before jumping tracks to pop culture, Little Richard lyrics, and world events all in the same line. And perhaps most importantly to a potential audience whose eighth-grade teachers might have scared them away from poetry for life, these poems are tremendously accessible and funny.
Publishers Weekly calls Kirby's newest poetry collection Stand Up, Please, "Cheerful and boyish, Kirby's poems [are]... written as though Kirby was trying to keep up with some bright inspiration moving at breakneck speed." And the New York Times says that Kirby "reminds me of the way a poem can work: how its language can say one thing and mean another, and how we can be moved by the musicality of words, finding meaning in their sound."
Now, I don't know about the boyish part, but having spent the better part of my late 20s and early 30s studying with the man, I've never known Kirby to be in a sour mood. In Kirby's essay "Pleasure First," he discusses desirable qualities of a poem, one of them being that "a poem that deals in comedy will acknowledge tragedyÖthe funniest poem will have a dark heart just as a good sad poem will seem to have been written by a poet capable of laughter."
Ultimately, what a great deal of poetry lacks today is humor. Serious humor. High stakes humor. No matter your previous experience with poetry, each of you will take something pleasurable away after a David Kirby reading. If not, come and see me. I'll refund double the price of admission.
The event is free and open to the public, brought to you by The Creative Writing School at Arizona Western College and co-sponsored by KAWC 88.9 FM and the AWC Alpha-Zeta Chapter of the National English Honor Society. For additional information, please contact Dr. Eric Lee at Eric.Lee@azwestern.edu.
Taking It Home to Jerome
By David Kirby
In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was
always urging his listeners to "take it on home to Jerome."
No one knew who Jerome was. And nobody cared. So it
didn't matter. I was, what, ten, twelve? I didn't have anything
to take home to anyone. Parents and teachers told us that all
we needed to do in this world were three things: be happy,
do good, and find work that fulfills you. But I also wanted
to learn that trick where you grab your left ankle in your
right hand and then jump through with your other leg.
Everything else was to come, everything about love:
the sadness of it, knowing it can't last, that all lives must end,
all hearts are broken. Sometimes when I'm writing a poem,
I feel as though I'm operating that crusher that turns
a full-size car into a metal cube the size of a suitcase.
At other times, I'm just a secretary: the world has so much
to say, and I'm writing it down. This great tenderness.