Thursday, April 11, 2013


Ken McCullough started out as a professional baseball player, in Baltimore if i remember correctly, and ended up a backwoods poet, mostly in the Midwest. When we were students at the University of Iowa Writers Workshop back in the 1960s, before the proliferation of university and college writing workshops, he lived in a cabin in the woods, as I remember it, despite his city cred.

I don't think we've seen each other in person for decades, though I keep up with his life changes through a mutual friend who's closer by. And I've kept up with his many books, and recently received his latest, BROKEN GATES (Red Dragonfly Press), a collection of poetry from more recent years. One of my favorite books of poetry is his 2003 book OBSIDIAN POINT (Lone Oak Press). It's a good introduction to the man, his  life and perspective on it, and his writing. And in many ways, it's his most emblematic and yet most unique book as well.

BROKEN GATES is his latest and is the poetry of an older man. Still with his hands in the soil and the rugged lifestyle (with poems about his—or someone's he lives with—horses, and functional gardening, more like small farming and his rural dailiness) but with a more nostalgic tone. He was always reflective and he's still more active than I'll ever be, but he's also, at least from my perspective, more gentle on himself and accepting.

Anyway, I'm happy he keeps writing and getting the work out for those of us who care, to keep up with him that way. Here's an example of what I'm trying to say about this collection's feel, at least for me:

The Temple

At night, the ocean soughs
                           through leaves
    of ancient maples
       surrounding our bedroom

and the neighbor's elk
                like startled whales
        in the distance.

         the eight wind chimes
on our tenant's porch
                 start clanging.

I will have to tell him soon.


-K- said...

It's a poem all about noises, or rather sounds, yet its a very, very quiet poem.

Really wonderful.

tpw said...

Ken is a really good poet. I read that poem slowly to myself and it deftly puts you right out there in the country (where I definitely don't belong), keenly tuned into the natural world. I love the intrusion of people at the end, with its slightly ominous inflection.

Lally said...

Nice observations guys.