Feb 242018

Kirby Congdon Key West’s First Poet Laureate

by Kirby Congdon…….

A few years ago, when a poet introduced her poem with the advice, “This really happened,” I was not able to stop thinking about it. Did she mean that the poem was founded on real facts, grounded on verifiable experience like an existential newspaper? If so, did she mean all the rest of her work was based on imaginary suppositions? Was everything made up like a fairy tale, fiction, or some other kind of entertainment? This would be the stuff of the nursery room or Hallmark greeting cards.

When one reads a poem, he wants thought, exploration, and new ideas, not platitudes, the certain, or the tried and true, because these are not what happen. What really happens is the experience we never had before. A poem lets us know what that was. Poets do not record what’s reliable, what conforms, what has already been tested. The quality we look for is not the original fact but originality, the eye-opener, the unusual. Like death and birth, events may happen multitudinous times and still be unique. We identify each one. Life is not just a commitment to a job like any other. In a world of conformity, even our Social Security number has to be different than anyone else’s. That is how we find out who we are and maybe, even how we got there. We don’t care what happened as usual but what’s distinctive and unusual. About what? Well, let me see the poem.

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Kirby Congdon
Kirby Congdon found his calling in the time of the Beat Movement, his poems being published by the New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune and the Christian Science Monitor as well as countless small-press outlets. While influenced by the assertive stance of a new generation in literature, he preferred to set aside the spontaneous approach of his friends and use his work as an exploratory tool in establishing the new identity of his times as well as that of his own maturation. This search was incorporated in 300 works which were compiled in a bibliography by a Dean of the English Department at Long Island University in his retirement and made available in hard-back with an extensive addenda by the literary activists of Presa Press through their skills achieved from the University of Michigan and their own experience which commands a movement in itself of contemporary literary action.

Congdon’s work in poetry covers innumerable treatments of countless subjects in single poems, long treatments on a subject, and many collections of both serious thought and imagination through not only the poetry but through essays, plays and ruminations. Named the first poet laureate of Key West, he received a standing ovation for his reading honoring this position and was the featured poet in a festival celebrating Frank O’Hara in the New York region. He was also asked to read his work as well as give a talk on the country’s national poet laureate, Richard Wilbur, at a seminar honoring that man. Currently, Congdon is working on an autobiography and a collection of complete poems.
 February 24, 2018  Posted by at 12:40 am ~ Column ~, Issue #257, Kirby Congdon, News  Add comments

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