Kevin Craft’s Vagrants & Accidentals

This luminous book makes my heart happy. It takes up big themes–like identity, loss, space and time–and fastens them to the page with the smallest of details, precise and exact, that flare up in the imagination, opening into fissures that grow wider and wider with each rereading.

I’ve known Kevin Craft for about 20 years, we once shared an office at Everett Community College, and we both wrote our poems and shared them while wrangling our way from part-time English instructors to full-time, from newbie probationers, to tenured faculty, to …well, you get the picture. He’s still there, and despite a full plate of family, teaching, travel, and somehow managing to be executive editor of Poetry Northwesthas continued to write. And so, this book, Vagrants & Accidentals, which is the seventeenth book in the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series. You can read more about him, and a sampling of his poems, at Poetry Foundation.

Here’s a poem that I keep going back to:

Old Paradox

Consider that a single grain of sand
cannot be arranged so as to form
a heap.

Consider that it’s difficult
if not impossible to discover the exact
moment a tadpole becomes a frog,

the precise instant al dente
loses its bright tooth. At noon I am
half in love with you, half distracted

by the dishes in the sink.
Now the soul: tell me where is it
that split-second before

and after the old woman who is mother
and grandmother and cousin
to those assembled in a hospice room

kisses her own immigrant grandmother
on the cheek as she leaves that Napoli
she left long ago

forever in the past? In dying, does she
take the flyswatter with her,
does every cell turn off at once?

One death permeable as grief,
another obdurate: they lean against
each other, accumulating

mass. On a scale of extravagant
to frugal, we fall everywhere

Kevin Craft, Vagrants & Accidentals (University of Washington Press, 2017)


Gary Snyder

I am exhausted. I’ve been attending AWP in Seattle, courtesy of Poetry Northwest and my college. My brain is full. I came very, very close to leaving after dinner last night, but this man — Gary Snyder — who I have never seen in person but have read forever — was reading. He is getting up there, and I can’t really imagine that I will have another chance to hear him. So I stayed.

Robert Hass, Eva Saulitis, and Gary Snyder on nature and science. It was wonderful and made me want to get up this morning and work on poems.

Which is, after all, what it’s all about.




How Poetry Comes to Me

It comes blundering over the
Boulders at night, it stays
Frightened outside the
Range of my campfire
I go to meet it at the
Edge of the light

-Gary Snyder