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Wyatt Townley

Wyatt Townley was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and received a BFA in dance from Purchase College at the State University of New York–Purchase. 

She is the author of four collections of poetry: Rewriting the Body (forthcoming from Stephen F. Austin University Press); The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press, 2011), winner of the Nelson Poetry Book Award; The Breathing Field (Little, Brown & Co., 2002); and Perfectly Normal (The Smith, 1990). She is also the author of Yoganetics (HarperCollins, 2002).

Townley served as the poet laureate of Kansas from 2013 to 2015 and remains the state’s poet laureate emeritus.  She teaches yoga and lives in Kansas.


Rewriting the Body (forthcoming from Stephen F. Austin University Press)
The Afterlives of Trees (Woodley Press, 2011)
The Breathing Field (Little, Brown & Co., 2002)
Perfectly Normal (The Smith, 1990)

Yoganetics (HarperCollins, 2002)

By This Poet


Walking Water

Inside us the ocean
sways like a cradle
in which we rock     rock  

and are drawn like the tide
to the moon twice a day
we carry our water and it carries us

we are a good pail with legs
foot by foot on the turning
mountain of the world

water walking on the prairie
walking water on the road
up the stairs through a door

where the view rushes out of us
through the window to the woods
rushing water in the desert

rushing water in this chair
and that one you’re in
water walking

and what is solid is not at all
what we thought     the rock
worn away by the rocking

The Breathing Field

Between each vertebra
is the through line
of your life’s story,
where the setting sun
has burned all colors
into the cord.  Step

over.  Put on the dark
shirt of stars. 
A full moon rises
over the breathing field,
seeps into clover and the brown
lace of its roots
where insects are resting

their legs.  Take in the view.
So much is still
to be seen.  Get back
behind your back, behind
what is behind you. 

Centering the House

All night Kansas
the lungs of the continent
takes a sip of the galaxy

swirling stars and barbed wire
sofabeds and willows
books and doors banging open 

signs disappear whole towns
ditch themselves in the countryside
I stir the coffee to center the house

the place our mothers and fathers
and theirs and theirs passed through
their aprons strung on telephone wires

this tunnel of wind this trial        
makes trees throw back their heads                                               
and hair on our arms stand up        

we’re nothing but breath on its way through the woods