Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Muse: Louisiana's New Poet Laureate

Julie Kane officially became Louisiana's eleventh Poet Laureate on May 23, succeeding Darrell Bourque, profiled here in January. Details about the position, as well as state-specific poetry resources, are found in my earlier post.

During her two-year term (2011-2013), Kane will deliver an annual poetry reading, the position's only requirement, and travel the state to promote poetry.

* * * * *
. . . I look for bravura ice-dancing, for that exquisite
balancing act between tradition and the individual talent.*
~ Julie Kane on Judging Sonnets

Poet Julie Kane, Ph.D., a Louisiana resident for more than three decades, is the author, most recently, of Jazz Funeral (Story Line Press, 2009), a collection of sonnets awarded the 2009 Donald Justice Poetry Prize; and Rhythm & Booze (University of Illinois Press, 2003), selected for the National Poetry Series and a finalist for a 2005 Poets' Prize.  (It mostly comprises villanelles.) Her early publications include the chapbook The Bartender Poems (Greville Press, 1991), the chapbook Two Into One (Only Poetry Press, 1982), half of which comprised the work of poet Ruth Adatia, and Body and Soul** (Pirogue Publishing, 1987). Her fourth collection, No-Win Situations, comprising light verse, is in progress.  

Kane, associate editor of the Pearson-Longman Southern literature anthology, also is a nonfiction writer, essayist, and translator. She co-wrote, with Kiem Do, Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War (Naval Institute Press, 1998), which was showcased by History Book Club in 1999. With Grace Bauer, she co-edited the anthology Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Evverette Maddox (Xavier Review Press, 2006; audio here), a finalist for a 2007 book award in poetry from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.

In an essay about judging contemporary sonnets,  Kane wrote that she dislikes "[a]rchaic language, predictable rhymes, wrenched syntax, forced sentimentality, dullness" and favors "wit, wordplay, thought, craft, subtlety of sound effects, awareness of the past, attention to the present and the world we live in, originality, flair."*** Kane's admirers, while noting the absence of the former from her poetry, would be quick to point to the latter as being fully in evidence.  Kane works hard, she says in interviews, to craft "accessible" poetry. Indeed, her skillful, beautifully crafted formal poems display, as does her free verse, a sense of humor and a talent for using a colloquial voice.

In the following, Kane uses details about herself that become a joke on the poem's narrator:

What luck—an open bookstore up ahead
as rain lashed awnings over Royal Street,
and then to find the books were secondhand,
with one whole wall assigned to poetry;
and then, as if that wasn't luck enough,
to find, between Jarrell and Weldon Kees,
the blue-on-cream, familiar backbone of
my chapbook, out of print since '83—
its cover very slightly coffee-stained,
but aging (all in all) no worse than flesh
through all those cycles of the seasons since
its publication by a London press.
Then, out of luck, I read the name inside:
The man I  thought would love me till I died.
~ "Used Book" from Jazz Funeral

Here's an example of one of Kane's villanelles:

The summer we kissed across the bar,
I felt sixteen at thirty-six:
as if you were a movie star

I had a rush on from afar.
My chest was flat, my legs were sticks
the summer we kissed across the bar.

Balancing on the rail was hard.
Spilled beer made my elbows stick.
You could have been a movie star,

backlit, golden, lofting a jor
of juice or Bloody Mary mix
the summer we kissed across the bar.

Over the sink, the limes, as far
as you could lean, you leaned. I kissed
the movie screen, a movie star.

Drinks stayed empty. Ashtrays tarred.
The customers got mighty pissed
the summer we kissed across the bar.
Summer went by like a shooting star.
~ "Kissing the Bartender" from Rhythm & Booze

The recipient of a Fulbright scholarship (2002), Kane also has been awarded an Academy of American Poets prize, a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner poetry award, and an Open Poetry Ltd. Sonnet Prize. She also has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in dozens of journals, including The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, The FormalistThe Southern Review, and Verse Daily, as well as in Poetry: A Pocket Anthology (5th Ed., Penguin, 2006), Voices of the American South (Pearson/Longman, 2004), and more than two dozen other anthologies.

Kane, professor of English in the Department of Language & Communication at Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, teaches creative writing and American poetry. She has been a George Bennett Fellow in Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy (the first woman so honored) and has twice held a New Orleans Writer-in-Residence at Tulane University.

* "On Contemporary Sonnets", 14 x 14, Issue 5, 2008

** This was Kane's first full-length poetry collection. Although out of print, it is available on Kindle.

*** While an undergraduate, Kane studied with A.R. Ammons, William Matthews, and Robert Morgan. She was briefly a graduate poetry student of Anne Sexton. Her doctoral dissertation is on the villanelle and its transition from musical genre to fixed poetic form. Kane is described as a practitioner of "New Formalism".

Julie Kane Profile at Northwestern State University of Louisiana

Julie Kane Louisiana Endowment for the Humannities Announcement of Appointment

Northwestern State University Announcement of Julie Kane's Appointment as Poet Laureate

Julie Kane's Blog

Julie Kane Poetry Online: "Particle Physics" at The Writer's Almanac; "Cardinal", "The Killing Field", "Particle Physics", and "Re-entry, Post-Katrina", All at Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women; "Maraschino Cherries", "Egrets", "Kissing the Bartender", "Thirteen", "Reasons for Loving the Harmonica", "Dead Armadillo Song", "Love Poem for Jake and Ithaca", and "The Mermaid Story", All at The Hypertexts; "Used Book" (Winner, 2007 Open Poetry Ltd. International Sonnet Competition) in 14 x 14; "Gift Horse" at Connotations Press; "Learning Curve (What They Taught Me)" at poemeleon; "Connemara", "Prayer to Chaos", "Dead Armadillo Song", and "Thoughtball Villanelle", All at Louisiana Poetry Project; "Thirteen" at Famous Poems; "Family Dramas, Act One: The Glynn-Kanes", "Act Two: The Lynch-Spillanes", "Act Three: The Spillane-Kanes", "Act Four: The Cavan-Tyrones", All at Druken Boat; "Men Who Love Redheads" and "Birch Thoughts in Louisiana" in Southern Women's Review (pdf)

Julie Kane Light Verse Online: "Diva" at Umbrella Journal; "Unplanned Obsolescence" at Umbrella Journal; and "Sunday Morning", "Funday Morning", "The Emperor of Ice Cream's New Clothes", and "Anecdote of a Litterbug", All at Umbrella Journal 

Julie Kane Essays Online: "Poetry as Right-Hemispheric Language" in PsyArt, Online Journal for the Psychological Study of the Arts, May 3, 2007; "Getting Serious About Gail White's Light Verse" in Mezzo Cammin: An Online Journal of Formalist Poetry by Women; "The Myth of the Fixed-Form Villanelle", MLQ: Modern Language Quarterly, Vol. 64, No. 4, December 2003 (subscription required)

Eve Abrams, Interview with and Reading by Julie Kane, WWNO Public Radio, June 22, 2011

Interview at Stratosphere, Forum of Able Muse Review, December 2000 (This post also includes a selection of poems: "The Mermaid Story", "Maraschino Cherries", "Dead Armadillo Song", "Kissing the Bartender", "Airport Bar", "The Maple Leaf Bar", "Particle Physics", "Re-entry, Post-Katrina", and "Used Book".)

Derek Alger, "Julie Kane", Interview, Pif Magazine, September 17, 2009

Dianne Blakely, "Notes on the State of Poetry, Part Three", Interview (see the brief  section subtitled "Nachitoches"), Swampland

Tegan Wendland, "Meet Louisiana's New Poet Laureate: Julie Kane", WRFK Baton Rouge, May 23, 2011 (The interview is available in audio and print.)

Kim Bridgford, " 'Her Kind' of Sonnet: A Review of Julie Kane's Jazz Funeral", Review, Mezzo Cammin, Vol. 4, Issue 1

Susan Larson, "Poet Julie Kane Imagines a Stirring 'Jazz Funeral'", Review, The Times-Picayune, July 22, 2009

Andi McKay, Jazz FuneralReviewFront Porch Journal, Issue 120

Mary Meriam, "Rhythm and Booze", Review, Rattle, July 5, 2009


Glynn said...

After readind this, I ordered "Body and soul" on Kindle. Thanks for the post!

Louise Gallagher said...

Sometime, when I read a biography like Kane's I want to turn back time, become a poet studying under the greats, drinking at bars and smoking cigarettes late into the night.

and then I realize -- but that wouldn't be my life...

and I settle into where I am and appreciate where they are at and all they have to offer.

thanks Maureen -- great biography of a Poet laureate!

(I was just thinking on the weekend -- I wonder when next Maureen will showcase one!)

Chris G. said...

Nice. Reminds me of a silly little fact of my own state. Michigan, for some reason, has had just one poet laureate. One. In all the years of being a state, even that one occurrence was technically an unofficial title. In 2005 they voted to make such a title...but our house actually voted it down. Makes the artist in me ache. But it is lovely to see such honors moving through other states, as Louisiana.

Maureen said...

Chris, yes, I noted that fact about your state here:

I've written posts for every state that has a Poet Laureate. Once I finished, I pledged to follow up whenever a new appointment was made. The terms of appointment vary from one to two years to life (why does that sound like a jail sentence?). Doing the series was a great introduction to poets I might otherwise not have picked up.

Thank you for reading and commenting.

the sad red earth said...

I LOVE these poems. What a killer couplet for the sonnet. What fun romantic swoon in the villanelle. And she practices what she preaches about language. Rhythm and Booze, indeed. Very impressed. Thanks, Maureen.

S. Etole said...

I always enjoy the features you do and a sampling of their work.

Anonymous said...

i takes an interesting person such as yourself, that has developed an appreciation for certain things, seeks them out and shares them, to give this information to others. thanks for sharing what you see.

Hannah Stephenson said...

Loving her work (Used Book is great!!).

annell4 said...

I really enjoyed the post, and Julie Kane is beautiful in her person and her words.