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Saturday, December 10, 2016

Words that foster change


 “No matter how brief an encounter you have with anybody, you both change.” – Carolyn Kizer

This fall, I had the good fortune to visit Spokane, Wash., the birthplace of the wonderful poet (and Pulitzer Prize winner) Carolyn Kizer, who would have been celebrating her 91st birthday today.   Kizer, who won the Pulitzer for her 1984 poetry book Yin, was the first director of Literary Programs for the National Endowment for the Arts in 1966.   She also held appointments as poet-in-residence or lecturer at many of the nation’s leading universities in the 1970s and 1980s. 

Her first published poem was in The New Yorker                
 at age 17, but she said the first real poem she remembers writing “was about the wheat fields between Spokane and Pullman” when she was 14.   Her first book of poems – The Ungrateful Garden – was published in 1961, two years after she helped found Poetry Northwest in Spokane.  She served as its editor until her appointment to the NEA.  In addition to the Pulitzer, she won the Pushcart Prize 3 times and the Frost Medal for her body of work.  She died in 2014.     For Saturday’s Poem, here is Kizer’s,

A Poet’s Household
1
The stout poet tiptoes
On the lawn. Surprisingly limber
In his thick sweater
Like a middle-age burglar.
Is the young robin injured?

2

She bends to feed the geese
Revealing the neck’s white curve
Below her curled hair.
Her husband seems not to watch,
But she shimmers in his poem.

3

A hush is on the house,
The only noise, a fern,
Rustling in a vase.
On the porch, the fierce poet
Is chanting words to himself.


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