I know the poet David Kirby fairly well but not nearly well enough as I’d like; in grad school I managed to foolishly miss every chance I had to take a class with him and since graduate school our exchanges have always been too short and too infrequent. Here’s what I know about David Kirby the poet though: his poems come to us out of a deep love and devotion to poets and readers of poetry, love to the man on the steps of the capital and to those in his classrooms and even out to those who are digging ditches in Utah and QAnoners waiting for John F. Kennedy Jr to appear in Texas. His poems are love letters to real people, top to bottom. It is this characteristic that makes anyone who has met him wish for more time and privacy to just sit with him and listen and learn. He is as worldly and wise as he is talented and charitable, and he is as kind and generous as anyone I have ever met, and I owe him a great deal for his help with my two books and the PhD that sits framed on my wall. I daresay none of them would exist or would exist so well without his mentorship.
David Kirby’s poetry is as complex and lyrical (and I will just say it) incredibly loving as any of our most vaunted poets. Of course his love for Keats would make perfect sense, but what he does reinventing image and voice and page and music makes him a poet everyone should read, study, and experience. The long lines he so often deploys in his poems give us the quick stream of consciousness he is known for, but what is most recognizable in his poetry is his research and depth of knowledge; his poems instruct and teach and it is this aspect of a Kirby poem that strikes me most powerfully each time I am lucky enough to discover them. In these poems selected here you will see what I mean: we go on a journey with this poet, we travel in time and we move from the Renaissance to a dermatology office in Tallahassee to a master-class on the violin to Cape Town to Edinburg to a studio where we may study chaos theory or James Brown or carbunkles or maybe all at the same time. We listen to Niccolò Paganini and we play the violin with the devil and we mistake a Frankenstein ring for a James Brown ring and we are concussed alongside Jessica K. Sorenson and we sip coffee and red wine and we say delicious words like Brobdingnagian, Bunyanesque, Herculean, Gargantuan, and we ask for forgiveness and we give thanks to all that ever was or will be and we believe in unicorns and we believe in hybrid bat-humans and we listen to Mahler and we live in these poems and we learn from these poems, and each line we embrace “just gets better and better.”
Did I mention the poet David Kirby is a genius? Or that his poems are genius? We are lucky to have him here in our pages, and so are you.