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About this poet

Carolyn Kizer was born in Spokane, Washington, on December 10, 1925. She is 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 has also written 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 has 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 is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and lives in Sonoma, California, and Paris.

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On a Line from Valery (The Gulf War)

Carolyn Kizer, 1925
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.

From Harping On by Carolyn Kizer, published by Copper Canyon Press. Copyright © 1996 by Carolyn Kizer. Used with permission.

Carolyn Kizer

Carolyn Kizer

Carolyn Kizer was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1925. She is the

by this poet

poem

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