Kenneth Irby: The Intent On


Kenneth Irby


Collected Poems, 1962- 2006

672 pages; hardcover; gorgeous Thorpe Feidt painting on cover; excellently designed by Jonathan Greene; $40 from

North Atlantic Books

This is a book I have been waiting for for many years now and finally, finally it is here: the Collected Poems of Ken Irby, one of our major neglectorinos (to use that word again) — essentially one of our very best poets, and someone whose work has been a touchstone for my own thinking about poetry and poetics since the the late sixties when I first encountered his work when given a copy of the just published The Flower of Having Passed Through Paradise in a Dream (Matter books, Annandale-on-Hudson 1968). It is that book (maybe together with Robert Kelly’s Finding the Measure, published the same year) that opened up the live possibilities of American poetry for me beyond the Beat poetry (Bob Kaufman and Allen Ginsberg, primarily) that had brought me over from Europe to the so-called New World.

In Irby there was also for me the discovery of that wider American space of the Plains as central to any active imagination of America, and of a certain congruence between that dizzyingly wide open outside SPACE (as Olson spelled it) and a just as wide and even more unexplored (at least by me) post-Rimbaldian, post-Artaudian inner space. To cite Irby:

Looking quietly for the place
to go in by
and in the quiet, lasting miles to sea, hours
           inland over the hills to the valley
realizing to be here is to
have entered the whole —
There is no illusory world, there is only the world

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11 opinions on “Kenneth Irby: The Intent On”

  1. What welcome news: “It is impossible to write of what one has written or lived, except as the day is, out the window, now, explicit.” My favorite quote from Ken for many years. So looking forward to this book life long.

  2. Pierre,
    Why don’t we add that Ken Irby is a wonderful human being? I only spent time with him one weekend at your house about 15 years ago, but his presence was a full and formidable one. Thanks for letting us know about this.


  3. What a terrific occasion, have long admired Ken Irby’s work and will look forward to spending time with this book. Is Ken still in Lawrence? Stopped by there some years back and said hello. Cheers y salud! y un abrazo para todos….BP

  4. Yes, Ken is a dear friend, and I have published his work in FIRST INTENSITY magazine for years, including a small chapbook (“Studies”). But I must say this is the best, the very best, book of poetry I’ve ever read. Every poem a wonder. And at 672 pages, that’s saying something. Blessings to all involved in the project.

  5. I so wish to visit with this hometown, debate partner from high school and to laud and applaud his many accomplishments which dwarfs his cohorts who plodded along in the “trenches” teaching English while rhyming verse on the side!

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