Joanne Kyger



Poems 1989-2000

160 pages

6 x 9 inches

ISBN 1-888809-25-6



Your Heart is Fine


Shaped by an effortless breath line, Joanne Kyger’s poetry is gifted with exquisite sensory awareness, a landscape painter’s eye, and friendly compassion. It conducts an intimate debate on the process of language, always with a wonderful sense of humor, sometimes self-deprecating, sometimes excoriating the bad behavior of miscreants and proponents of a false culture. Again: Poems 1989-2000, a long-awaited collection, spans a decade of daily life, deaths, seasons, bird migrations, journeys—and the who, what, where, even the why of conscious human puttering. Each poem finds its own form as well as place in the accumulative totality of the “book.” Kyger’s work continues to be an ongoing narrative, “the story time makes in a life,” wise talk, notations and gossip. To read these poems is to sink deeply and fly gracefully at the same time—and suddenly discover your own life talking back. One of the acknowledged female “Beat” poets (although she herself dislikes that limiting designation), she has been an inspiration to countless other writers, women as well as men, the young as well as her peers.

I’ve never known her words apart from her voice. But I can’t imagine any reader not hearing it: that her poetry is vocally sculpted is its most overwhelming characteristic. I mean that not all poetries are. There are some in which letters and words stand firm and dare the voice to make them give in: this is a nice, masculine way to write; or carefully that one hears the voice of a playful but domineering general (Stein comes to mind), organizing the words into formation. In Kyger’s poems the voice bends the words, but Voice is not pseudonym for Emotion or Character, Voice is very close to being Voice . . . The words don’t separate. You have to attend to what is being said, you have to attend to a vocal movement which corresponds to a mental movement; the voice has charm, but though it says “I” intimately it isn’t calling attention to a person. . . . Kyger’s major preoccupation is the attainment in quotidian life of that state where things and one are unveiled.

—Alice Notley


Delve birdlike, or densely like a turtle, into Kyger's verses! Her work has been variously described as elegant, elliptical, and quick. I hear the crunch of semiprecious stones on Bolinas Beach, and suspension, not of disbelief, but of everything that isn't suspense.

—Andrei Codrescu


She’s one of our hidden treasures—the poet who really links the Beats, the Spicer Circle, the Bolinas poets, the New York School, and the Language poets, and the only poet who can be said to do all of the above.

—Ron Silliman


Author of over 19 books, Joanne Kyger was born in 1934. She has played a vital role in the American poetry scene for more than four decades. She is one of the major experimenters, hybridizers, and visionaries of poetry. Her poems explore themes of friendship, love, community, and morality, and draw on Native American sources as well as the path of Buddhist religion and philosophy. Kyger arrived in San Francisco in 1957 during the Howl obscenity trials as a near-graduate of University of California–Santa Barbara. She soon met John Weiners, Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer and began to write and discuss poetry during "Sunday meetings." Her long publishing career began in 1965 with her first book, The Tapestry and the Web. She moved to Bolinas, California in 1968, where she has since lived, writing poetry, editing the local newspaper, travelling to Mexico, and teaching frequently at the Jack Kerouac School of Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.