Biography of Denise Low
Denise Low (born 1949) is an American poet, honored as the second Kansas Poet Laureate (2007–2009). A professor at Haskell Indian Nations University, Low teaches literature, creative writing and American Indian Studies courses at the university. She was succeeded by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg on July 1, 2009.
Low is the daughter of Francis Dotson and Dorothy (Bruner) Dotson. A 5th generation Kansan of mixed German, Scots, Lenape (Delaware), English, French, and Cherokee heritage, she was born and grew up in Emporia, Kansas, where she began her writing career as a high school correspondent for the Emporia Gazette. She attained her bachelor, masters and doctoral degrees in English from the University of Kansas, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Wichita State University.
As Poet Laureate of Kansas, Low continued the efforts of the state’s first laureate, Jonathan Holden, by providing an open dialogue with Kansas poets. Besides appearing at many venues across the state, she established the Ad Astra Poetry Project. Personally contributing to the project bi-monthly via written releases, Low discusses specific notable poets. The Ad Astra project poets are also featured on www.kansaspoets.com.
Low left Haskell Indian Nations University in 2012 after 27 years as an administrator and faculty member. She now teaches classes for the School of Professional and Graduate Studies of Baker University as well as The Writers Place of Kansas City. She writes a regular poetry column for the Kansas City Star, and she is review editor of Yukhika-latuhse (She tells us stories), published by the Oneida Nations Arts Program. Individual members of the Associated Writers and Writing Programs elected Low to the national board of directors 2008-2013. She has served the board as conference chair and president (2011-2012).
Denise Low Poems
By the river years ago, recursive in memory, a finite moment, the past ended. Future began.
I look through glass and see a young woman of twenty, washing dishes, and the window turns into a painting. She is myself thirty years ago. She holds the same blue bowls and brass teapot I still own. I see her outline against lamplight; she knows only her side of the pane. The porch where I stand is empty. Sunlight fades. I hear water run in the sink as she lowers her head, blind to the future. She does not imagine I exist. I step forward for a better look and she dissolves into lumber and paint. A gate I passed through to the next life loses shape. Once more I stand squared into the present, among maple trees and scissor-tailed birds, in a garden, almost a mother to that faint, distant woman.
Saint Patrick's Again
Live jazz at El Fresco is one guy, electric plinks, until he turns off the switch, closes his eyes, and warbles a boy's tenor, wood-flute tones, pure séance hymns from before Christians. Rowdies at the bar stop fighting and stare as seawater washes through the room, seeping through floorboards to serpent dens. The chorus stirs spirits from family lore. Desmond, Big Miller, James MackGehee— all rise from steerage and sing with the lords. Next performance is a poet reciting, "The Luck of the Irish," blue eyes snapping: "Once I journeyed to the Cliffs of Moher." I follow him to a rocky precipice, pause, then jump to dizzy foam tides below, fall, keep falling into this slow, heartbreaking solo.
By the river years ago, recursive in memory, a finite moment, the past ended. Future began. The river flowed south. You were a man's face floating among stones. By a river in autumn, willow leaves were yellow whisks in updrafts. We were not alone. Cottonwood boles twisted against banks, turtles dozed in the roots, bark slivered into water. The river sounded the swish of its name. You waded the Neosho as it meandered east. Two sandhill cranes fly overhead. Their legs stretch straight behind as they swim through air. Their grace is the river's. No one saw flood-seined silt, gravel, broken mussel pearls. I stayed, you left. By the river I met you each day. I meet you each day. I will be meeting you in invariant futures. By the river leaves turn. Mud cracks pentagonal shapes. You return and leave. The river remains. By the river I was a child, I am grown. I remember water pooled, not moving.
Walking with My Delaware Grandfather
Walking home I feel a presence following and realize he is always there that Native man with coal-black-hair who is
By the river years ago, recursive in memory, a
finite moment, the past ended. Future began.
The river flowed south. You were a man's face
floating among stones.
By a river in autumn, willow leaves were yellow
whisks in updrafts. We were not alone.