Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Three Western Poets

There's something wonderful about poets from the American west.

I know this is a gross generalization, but it seems to me that poets from the west aren't trying as hard to impress anybody. They tend to shun obscure, intentionally difficult poetry in favor of clean, simple language.

Poets from the west seem to end up writing poems that are clear and definite and hard and rugged and gritty.

And I like it.

So today I'd like to tell you about three cool western poets and link you to some of their poetry. Here they are:

1. William Kloefkorn

Kloefkorn, who's from Nebraska, has written twelve books of poetry. He's said, "Poems should not be simplistic, nor should they be sermons. Poetry is for those who want to use their own minds to find answers. It can challenge without being elitist or obscure."

Kloefkorn's also a darn nice guy. I once went to a poetry reading he gave and loved his work. I approached him after the reading and asked where I could buy the book he'd been reading from. "You want to buy one of these books?" he said. "Why would you buy one when there's one right here?" Then he signed the book he'd been reading from and gave it to me. He's a class act.

You can read one of his shorter poems about a belated confession here.

2. Lucas Howell

Howell lives in Wyoming and studied creative writing in Idaho. He's a younger writer, and I'd never heard of him until yesterday when I encountered this poem in Slate. It's fantastic, and if this one poem ends up being the only thing Howell ever writes, I think he should count himself a success.

I've never understood men who relive their glory days through adult softball leagues, but Howell's poem brings these men and the conflict between their lives and wishes into clear, easy focus. He shows these men as likable, longing-filled creatures, and I like that.

I'll look for more Lucas Howell in the future.

3. David Lee

Lee was Utah's first poet laureate, and his poetry grows out of his eclectic background. Check out these resume lines:
  • He's raised pigs.
  • He's been a boxer.
  • He's a war veteren.
  • He's been a semiprofessional baseball player.
  • He's worked in a cotton mill.
  • He has a PhD in poetry.
The man's done an awful lot, and you can read one of his poems here.

I hope you enjoyed today's poetry. We start our discussion of Good Poems by Garrison Keillor on Friday, so get your copy soon.

1 comment:

brandt said...

Would Western mean "from the west" or poets describing the west? Where would Walt Whitman fit into this bunch?

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