Poetry News

With Respect: Kenneth Irby (1936–2015)

By Harriet Staff

Irby-Gloucester-Dragon

We're saddened to hear and report that Lawrence, KS–based poet and professor Kenneth Irby passed away this morning. Irby, widely recognized as, well, deserving of more recognition, was 79. In a 2014 special feature on his work for Jacket2, editor William J. Harris paraphrased Lyn Hejinian's characterization of his poetry: "it is local, it is intimate, and it radiates love." Often connected with both Black Mountain and Language schools, Irby received a Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America in 2010; was educated at the University of Kansas, Harvard University, and the University of California, Berkeley; and was the author of over 26 poetry publications, including The Intent on: Collected Poems, 1962-2006; and the ravishing Call Steps (four left, friends).

He will be greatly missed by those who knew him. And there is the poetry. As Harris noted, "[t]his audience needs this gentle but commanding presence."

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In addition to "On Kenneth Irby" at Jacket2, which features essays and reflections by Hejinian, Robert Grenier, Pierre Joris, Nico Peck, Joe Harrington (who looks at Irby's work next to Ronald Johnson's), Nathaniel Tarn, Denise Low, Andrew Schelling, Ben Friedlander, Kyle Waugh, and more--check out plenty audio at PennSound, and more from EPC and the University of Kansas.

Video below from Kenneth Irby's 2010 reading for Berkeley's Holloway Series in Poetry, introduced by Hejinian (starts at approx. 22:58).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j28DfaESRRk

Originally Published: July 30th, 2015
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