Poet Kathleen Housley is a sort of Dian Fossey of human language. In pursuit of its mysteries, she has gone out in language’s dark, misty forest and lived among it like a conservation biologist, with her clipboard and binoculars. To our great benefit, Housley is a passionate, meticulous student. In her poems, one encounters a keen, sprightly intellect at play—but there is an unshakeable seriousness, too, a pure, clear, earnest desire for precision. Her thought moves in a graceful rhythm, quick and imaginative. The words themselves become live things, purring and clacking and chattering. Her vision of the world is capacious, tender, and wise, and full of a rich, humane curiosity. With acute, scientific exactness, her poems teach us a delight in the creation, in its multiplicity and surprise. A patient teacher, Housley leads us to the pleasure of the concrete and specific. Birds, animals, reptiles, humans: the poems offer a taxonomy of creation that is at once tender and wise, and a care for the life and nuance of speech that is both urgent and long-sighted. Like all the best poets, Housley is what Fossey might have called an “active conservationist” of the word.
Some of Housley’s work is featured in Image issue 45.
Besides being a poet, Housley is an independent writer and researcher with strong interdisciplinary knowledge, spanning American history, art, science, and theology. Her undergraduate degree is from Upsala College and her masters from Wesleyan University. Her biography The Letter Kills But the Spirit Gives Life: The Smiths (1993) was on the Smith sisters who were well-known nineteenth century abolitionists, suffragists, and Bible translators. The book won the Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of Historical Societies in 1994. Her second biography Emily Hall Tremaine: Collector on the Cusp (2001, University Press of New England) was a finalist for the Library of Congress/Connecticut Center of the Book Award in 2002. Tranquil Power: The Art and Life of Perle Fine (2005, MidMarch Arts Press) was rated as essential by Choice and was included on their list of outstanding books for 2005.
“Last year I became a volunteer emergency medical technician—’a job in which terror and wonder are not abstract.’ I have taken to heart Paul’s statement, ‘For God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-control.’ I do not know where my EMT work will lead in regard to poetry. Already I have written a poem about a woman who died with the print of my hand bruised into her chest, placed there from cardiopulmonary resuscitation which failed to revive her after her heart stopped. I have seeds of ideas which I am nurturing prayerfully. If I knew exactly what I was going to do with my poetry, it probably wouldn’t be worth doing.”
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.