Archive for Sunday, March 23, 2008

Ad Astra Poetry Project: Patricia Traxler

March 23, 2008


Editor's note: In her Ad Astra Poetry Project, Kansas Poet Laureate Denise Low highlights historic and contemporary poets who resided in Kansas for a substantial part of their lives. Eventually, she will collect the biweekly broadsides into a book, to be published by the Center for Kansas Studies at Washburn University, in cooperation with Thomas Fox Averill.

Patricia Traxler has supported poetry in the Salina and Smoky Hills area of Kansas for almost 30 years. She has published anthologies of area writings as well as fine works of her own. And as we move through the cusp from winter to spring this equinox, I've found one of her poems that might helps us wait out the last dreary dregs of winter.

Also, Lawrence has been blessed with a flurry of visiting poets: Paul Muldoon, Chrystos, Donald Levering, Tao Lin and Lyn Hejinian. I've been able to put some information about them on my blog. And thanks to Billy Joe Harris, who has allowed me to post his correspondence with Hejinian. That's at http://

And congratulations to my sister Jane Ciabattari on her recent election to president of the board of the National Book Critics Circle. The NBCC blog is always a good source of lively book talk:

Patricia Traxler (1944- )

Writing is Traxler's life. Besides being a fine, fine poet herself, she has developed writing programs for the hearing-impaired, for seniors, for victims of domestic violence and for mental health and stroke patients. And she founded and runs the Salina poetry reading series. To all of these tasks, she brings the skills of a well-schooled, sophisticated versifier. She studied with Nobel winner Seamus Heaney, and she has national book publications. However, in an interview, Traxler avers that her "most important and rewarding work" is with disenfranchised populations. She grew up in San Diego, and since the late 1970s, she has lived in her grandparents' house in Salina.

In "Why She Waits," the sky and the earth are husband and wife. Their tension arises from anticipation. Despite the "plain and faithful" landscape of late winter, even the drab and common starlings understand that renewal is about to occur.

'Why She Waits'

Another night: late winter falling

on the prairie like a nightly husband

no longer impassioned but knowing his rights

and duties

The snow no longer quite conceals

what for months has gone

unnoticed: the land, plain

and faithful beneath it

holding out

for something no one can describe, something

the starlings whisper about, evenings

in the melting snow, something

they look for

in the cold winter grass

Education: Traxler attended schools in California. She completed studies for the Bachelor of Arts from San Diego State University. She studied at Radcliffe College.

Career: Traxler's books include "Blood Calendar" (Morrow 1975); "The Glass Woman" (Hanging Loose 1983); "Forbidden Words" (University of Missouri 1994); and the novel "Blood" (St. Martin's Press, 2001/02). She has been poet-in-residence at the Thurber House (Ohio), Hugo poet at the University of Montana and a Kansas Arts Commission fellow.


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