Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Muse: 2011 Texas Poet Laureate

David M. Parsons has been serving as the 2011 Poet Laureate of Texas since May 27 of this year, when his appointment was announced officially in Austin. His one-year term ends in May 2012. Parsons, who was Poet Laureate for Montgomery County, Texas, in 2005 (a position he held for five years) and twice a finalist for state Poet Laureate, will be succeeded by Jan Epton Seale (my profile of Seale will appear next week, November 28, in Monday Muse). 

For background on the state position, see this post on Karla K. Morton who, in addition to being 2010 state poet, won the international 2011 Next Generation Indie Book Award in poetry for her collection Karla K. Morton: New and Selected Poems (Texas Christian University Press, September 2010).

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David M. Parsons, who studied poetry with Stanley Plumly, Edward Hirsch, and Robert Pinsky, among other eminent poets, is the author of three poetry collections: Feathering Deep (Texas Review Press/Texas A&M University Press Consortium, August 2011), Color of Mourning (Texas Review Press/Texas A&M University Press, 2007), and Editing Sky (Texas Review Press, 1999), which won the 1999 Texas Review Poetry Prize and was a 2000 Finalist for a Violet Crown Book Award.

Readers will find in Parsons's poetry a deep sense of place and a concern with memory and time, and what triggers remembrance of experience (see both his second collection Color of Mourning and his third Feathering Deep). The landscape he roams in his poetry is both physical and intellectual (see title poem below) but the language he uses is, not surprisingly for a poet from Texas, matter-of-fact. Reviewers of his work unfailingly call it intimate, moving, and accessible. Of Editing Sky, Stanley Plumly said, "At their best, Parsons's poems make a kind of country city music of the language of this longing." Edward Hirsch wrote that Parson "writes with a rugged and forthright honesty, with an open-hearted freshness, with the true voice of feeling."*

Note in this lovely poem how Parsons uses the single color yellow to create vivid imagery and build skillfully to his final line:

She awakened to Texas summer bright
in her eyes, throwing on a new yellow
robe, she dragged her body into the kitchen
to make coffee which she dug from a deep
yellow decanter. Awareness steeps  through
the heart beating perks, her eyes fall on the child's 
drawing that was stuck on the refrigerator door,
a yellow duck swimming on deep dark
water under another bloody sun brimming
with amber iris—Iris, goddess of the rainbow,
adding to the litany of golden messeners, all
bringing to her mind the dress, the yellow
dress that she had given to her niece
for her fifth birthday, the sweet lemon
yellow dress that the child delighted in so
that today she was to be buried in it—the sanctuary
of the summer kitchen felt unusually cold
as she cracked a single egg, spilling
carefully the delicate yoke onto melting butter
thinking, yellow—yellow—
yellow should not feel like this.
~ "Color of Mourning"

In this video, Parsons reads his poem "Feathering Deep" from his third collection (text follows):

I believe it to be
unlike any other

the manner in which
it carries us in
upon its own silence

the way an idea drifts
into the grey divide
where we find ourselves

in that sacred state—easing
quietly into the dark duende
to unconscious understanding

a lone canoe at night—blades
paddling deep—smoothly
and deftly feathering

that largest of bodies

~ "Feathering Deep"

Parsons's work has appeared in Descant, Gulf Coast, Louisiana Literature, Numinous MagazineSouthwestern American Literature ("Editing Sky" appeared in the Spring 1998 issue),  Texas Poetry Review (see Spring/Summer 2009 issue), The Texas Review, and other literary journals and magazines and anthologies, including Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease (Kent State University Press).

Honors include a National Endowment for the Humanities Dante Fellowship, the French-American Legation Poetry Prize, and, in 2006, the Baskerville Publisher's Prize, as well as writing awards from the Lone Star College System. 

A former Marine and business owner, Parsons teaches creative writing and kinesiology at Lone Star College/Montgomery and poetry workshops. He founded and co-directs the Montgomery County Literary Arts Council's Writers in Performance Series. He is a member of The Texas Institute of Letters and the Texas Association of Creative Writing Teachers.


* Quoted at Texas A&M University Consortium Press Page for Editing Sky

All Poetry Excerpts © David M. Parsons

Texas House Concurrent Resolution 165 (Announcement of Designation as Poet Laureate)

David Parsons Poetry Online: "Inscaping the Storm" at Numinous; "They", "Color of Mourning", "Still Life", "Lake Lady Dancing on the Hill", "Memories of Camp Mathews in Finnish Rhapsody", and "Orange Country April 29, 2005", All at Sol Magazine Projects (pdf); "Night Hawk" at Descant

David Parsons, Audio Recording for Poets Corner at Taping for the Blind (28:01 minutes)

Maggie Galehouse, "Meet Dave Parsons, 2011 Texas Poet Laureate", Houston Chronicle, May 10, 2011 (

Writers' League of Texas (Violet Crown Book Award)

David M. Parsons on LinkedIn


Louise Gallagher said...

"yellow should not feel like this."

A powerful, heart-wrenching poem.

Thank you Maureen for sharing Parsons brilliance with us.

I am breathing. Deeply.

S. Etole said...

such a sad association with the color of sunshine ...

Ruth said...

I just love how each poet observes! What a wonder. The yellow one, so amazing . . . yellow not as warm, but cold! The yellowness reminds me of a very different take by Oscar Wilde, his "Symphony in Yellow."

beauty said...

The yellowness reminds me of a very different beauty take by Oscar Wilde