Voices from the American Land

Joanne Kyger

Joanne Kyger and Donald Guravich

Joanne Kyger, the prominent northern California poet, led off the Voices chapbook series. She is shown here with artist Donald Guravich, who illustrated Lo & Behold.
Photo credit: ©ccsniderbryan2007

Donald and Joanne

Joanne Kyger was born in Vallejo, California in 1934. She moved to the coast north of San Francisco in 1969, where she has lived since — writing, traveling to Mexico, and teaching frequently at the New College of San Francisco, and Naropa University. An active presence in the San Francisco-Bay Area poetry scene for over 40 years, she is often associated with the San Francisco Renaissance, the Black Mountain poets, and the Beat writers. She has been an inspiration to countless other writers, women as well as men, the young as well as her peers.

Donald Guravich is a writer and illustrator. He has been a frequent guest faculty member at Naropa University’s Summer Writing Program, in Boulder, Colorado. His latest books include A Brief History of Flying and Blue Chips.

Drawing c. Donald Guravich

Drawing, © Donald Guravich

About Lo & Behold

Celebrated poet Joanne Kyger is the author of more than a score of books, winner of prizes, world traveler, Zen Buddhist, teacher of poets. Much of her writing happens in a special coastal village whose bay “eases in with flat,/smooth curves,” and where she has lived since the late 1960s.

Introduced by bioregional literary critic Andrew Schelling of Naropa University, Kyger’s chapbook, Lo & Behold: Household and Threshold on California’s North Coast, provides a splendidly evocative memoir of the animals, plants, landforms, strange and wonderful visitors, neighbors, and famous poets and artists. One of the famous artists is Donald Guravich who has provided illustrations.

Upon opening this chapbook, the reader is invited to share in a quintessential sensibility of place—a topography described by what Zen Buddhists generously call “the beginner’s mind.” “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,” writes Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi. With Lo & Behold, the range of possibilities makes you glad to be in such a place and in such company.

Poem by Joanne Kyger:


Hail and thunder and lightning, wind and rain, no electricity.
My god, we just had a cigarette butt fire in the wastebasket in the loft.

Thank you for the dozen deep blue Iris on the occasion of my recent book.
The crows chasing the hawk from the nearby pine.
You and the phenomenal world are absolutely pure, from the beginning.
Innocent, tender, vulnerable.

Slim mesa culture needs so many “props.”

Serenely golden setting light and insistence if the wind moves
............it’s the mind’s attention that causes it.
..................A bright iridescent blue beetle with a red spot.

I dream I don’t have a place to live and am reduced to bossing people about picking up
......their plastic glasses in the sand.

I am having a “shaman” experience
..........speeding into the great white light source in heaven.
How wonderful. When I turn to fly back down to earth, through the silver clouds,
.....I get very fearful, think I am falling, and wake up.

“If all the poets living here would jump off the cliff tonight,
......this town would disappear.”
............— Joe S. rather drunkenly at recent party.

She will speak of the energy that comes from experience, embodied through the focus of the page to the reader. Great Breath and the Large Charge.
“Language is one of man’s proudest acts.”

In the junk room of dreams — old dolls, baby toys, a constant urge to pee on the floor.
Arranging and ordering objects, tired, old, used.

In a wilderness, man also has a Right,
......along with the bears, birds,bees etc. to be there too.”
Every time I get a friend around here: towhee, fox sparrow, hummingbird, lizard —
......my cat, Ita, kills it.

“Attributes of the ‘first people’ handed down to the objects and animals they became.”

Crossing the Pacific by observing the clues in sea bird behavior,
......the signals of wind drift and current set,
............and knowing the many hundreds of chants
..................in which star navigation courses are set.
The navigator uses a reef or island for a mental triangle point
..........— an island or reef often never seen or visited.
That’s how people got to this coast.
......Forget about crossing the Bering Straits.

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