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A Note for Kenneth Irby
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A Note for Kenneth Irby

The sense of place in American poetry grows increasingly insistent, but it is not one simply of what sort of house you happen to have, or anything akin to mere description. It is, more deeply, that experience of location which is out of time, and the history of traditional order—a location which is, instead, one of the literal fact of space, and the ground which occupies it, literally under foot.

That fact is all the more evident in the writing of those who had the middle west as the first place they knew. For Kenneth Irby it becomes:

 . . . because it's me, and only there

can I go in—
the circle to focus

comes narrower,
the land

presses up
like flesh

toward the hand . . .

More, he carries this response, and measure, of his experience into all the terms of that experience, as he moves away from this place—yet always, to my mind, looks for the reality of the first known way of feeling.

Men as he, it would seem, had no easy way of being even where they first were. Historically, we know the loneliness and what it led to, in the first people to take root there. The woods shrank back,

Duende 8 (September 1965).


and the grasslands opened before them, seemingly an endlessly vacant possibility. Touch is not simple. Feelings tend to draw back from what they know as such emptiness. An endurance not at all romantic seems to take hold.

But the inner terms of feeling nonetheless survive, looking always for their possibility—calling to friend, to brother, to whatever can and will acknowledge them. I read that fact in these poems too, finding such an intensity of longing it is at moments hard to acknowledge—just that a man is facing so unequivocally what he has been given to accept.

The terms are common, however—ours as his. We will find a world only as he does, by loving it.


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A Note for Kenneth Irby
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