Poems by Karl Kirchwey





Karl Kirchwey has published four books, and his work has been widely anthologized, in volumes such as Poetry After 9/11: An Anthology of New York Poets, The Best of the Best American Poetry 1987-1998, and After Ovid: New Metamorphoses. His poems brush away the layers of fog and cobweb settled over history, revealing classical resonances in every piece of contemporary life. Mary Jo Salter aptly called him “a poet for whom the world of antiquity is as real as this morning's breakfast.”

William Logan wrote of Kirchwey’s 2002 volume, At the Palace of Jove, that he “reminds us that we live only by the sacrifice of the dead, and therefore in their shadows. Shadows fall frequently over these poems, from lives corrupted, crippled, or destroyed.” In “The War,” from The Happiness of this World (2007), a poem in which Hector and his infant son Astyanax appear as all-too-real ghosts in a re-envisioned World War II scene, Kirchwey ends by asking, “Here is the war. Where is the enemy?” Rooted in the search for the causes of grief and erasure of being, his pronouncements are not always joyous: “There is no omen, only accident, / imped on the peach-pale wing of our own error.” Still, despite unreportable sadnesses, he poet seeks joy in the appearance of fireflies and vernal spaces, “tiny hot springs / of the beating heart” glimpsed in a sonogram, and the quiet slowing-down of moments when history echoes and intervenes.

For thirteen years, Kirchwey served as director of the 92 nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center in New York City. He holds degrees from Yale College and Columbia University, and has traveled extensively through India and Southeast Asia. Currently an associate professor and director of the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr College, Kirchwey served as Conkling Poet at Smith 1995-97, and contributed crucial ideas and advice to Annie Boutelle as she developed the proposal for a Poetry Center at Smith.





Poetry Center Reading:

      Fall 2007  
    (with Elizabeth Alexander, Meredith Martin & Abe Louie Young)