Poets

Search more than 3,000 biographies of contemporary and classic poets.

Carolyn Kizer

1925–2014

Carolyn Kizer was born in Spokane, Washington, on December 10, 1924. She was the author of eight books of poetry: Cool Calm & Collected (Copper Canyon Press, 2000); Harping On: Poems 1985-1995 (1996); The Nearness of You: Poems for Men (1986); Yin (1984), which won the Pulitzer Prize; Mermaids in the Basement: Poems for Women (1984); Midnight Was My Cry: New and Selected Poems (1971); Knock Upon Silence (1965); and The Ungrateful Garden (1961).

She also wrote Picking and Choosing: Prose on Prose (1995), Proses: Essays on Poets and Poetry (1994), and Carrying Over: Translations from Chinese, Urdu, Macedonian, Hebrew and French-African (1986), and edited 100 Great Poems by Women (1995) and The Essential Clare (1992).

In 1959, she founded Poetry Northwest and served as its editor until 1965. From 1966 to 1970, she served as the first Director of the Literature Program at the National Endowment for the Arts. She received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Frost Medal, the John Masefield Memorial Award, and the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award. She was a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and split her time between Sonoma, California, and Paris. Kizer died on October 9, 2014.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Cool Calm & Collected (Copper Canyon Press, 2000)
Harping On: Poems 1985-1995 (Copper Canyon Press, 1996)
The Nearness of You: Poems for Men (Copper Canyon Press, 1986)
Yin (Copper Canyon Press, 1984)
Mermaids in the Basement: Poems for Women (Copper Canyon Press, 1984)
Midnight Was My Cry: New and Selected Poems (Doubleday, 1971)
Knock Upon Silence (Doubleday, 1965)
The Ungrateful Garden (Indiana University Press, 1961)

By This Poet

2

On a Line from Valery (The Gulf War)

Tout le ciel vert se meurt
Le dernier arbre brûle.
The whole green sky is dying.  The last tree flares
With a great burst of supernatural rose
Under a canopy of poisonous airs.

Could we imagine our return to prayers
To end in time before time's final throes,
The green sky dying as the last tree flares?

But we were young in judgement, old in years
Who could make peace; but it was war we chose,
To spread its canopy of poisoning airs.

Not all our children's pleas and women's fears
Could steer us from this hell.  And now God knows
His whole green sky is dying as it flares.

Our crops of wheat have turned to fields of tares.
This dreadful century staggers to its close
And the sky dies for us, its poisoned heirs.

All rain was dust.  Its granules were our tears.
Throats burst as universal winter rose
To kill the whole green sky, the last tree bare
Beneath its canopy of poisoned air.

Parent's Pantoum

for Maxine Kumin

Where did these enormous children come from,
More ladylike than we have ever been?
Some of ours look older than we feel.
How did they appear in their long dresses

More ladylike than we have ever been?
But they moan about their aging more than we do,
In their fragile heels and long black dresses.
They say they admire our youthful spontaneity.

They moan about their aging more than we do,
A somber group--why don't they brighten up?
Though they say they admire our youthful spontaneity
They beg us to be dignified like them

As they ignore our pleas to brighten up.  
Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention
Then we won't try to be dignified like them
Nor they to be so gently patronizing.

Someday perhaps we'll capture their attention.
Don't they know that we're supposed to be the stars?
Instead they are so gently patronizing.
It makes us feel like children--second-childish?

Perhaps we're too accustomed to be stars.
The famous flowers glowing in the garden,
So now we pout like children. Second-childish?
Quaint fragments of forgotten history?

Our daughters stroll together in the garden,
Chatting of news we've chosen to ignore,
Pausing to toss us morsels of their history,
Not questions to which only we know answers.

Eyes closed to news we've chosen to ignore,
We'd rather excavate old memories,
Disdaining age, ignoring pain, avoiding mirrors.
Why do they never listen to our stories?

Because they hate to excavate old memories
They don't believe our stories have an end.
They don't ask questions because they dread the answers.
They don't see that we've become their mirrors,

We offspring of our enormous children.