Through her poems, Kathleen Wakefield looks at the world with great tenderness. We like to think that her poems see people and things the way God sees them, with the eyes of patience and affection. In simple, elegant lines, Wakefield discovers surprising and fresh aspects of familiar things. Her language is beautiful in its understatement, her vision humble, almost childlike, in a way that leaves room for flights of imagination. There is an openness to wild revelation, and a profound sense of hope underlies all. Best of all, she regards herself with the same gentle humor with which she sees the world at large. Wakefield quietly guides us into her particular kind of vision, and her poems offer a welcome resting place for a busy and distracted mind. In one poem, a prayer, she asks, “make of this flesh-in-air a window seen through / to that countenance of love….” Read in the right spirit, her poems offer just that kind of window.
Read Kathleen’s poems from Image: “The Man in the Next Pew,” “If I Decide to Pray Again It Won’t Be Words Strung in a Line,” “To Begin With,” and “Once.”
My book Notations on the Visible World (2000) won the 1999 Anhinga Prize for Poetry. I also have a chapbook, There and Back, from State Street Press (1993). My poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Image, The Georgia Review, The Journal, Kenyon Review, Midwest Quarterly, Poetry, Rattle, River Styx, Sewanee Review, and Shenandoah. I have worked as a poet-in-the-schools and taught creative writing at the Eastman School of Music and University of Rochester.
Over time I’ve been drawn to writing dramatic monologues. A voice begins, a tone, the suggestion of a personal history. My poetry book Grip, Give and Sway, forthcoming from Silver Birch Press, includes a variety of voices, among them an” Invisible Stenographer”—imagined recording figure who protests and celebrates the human condition while questioning her own existence.
I’ve always been fascinated by the intersections of poetry, painting and music. Newer work includes many poems inspired by music. I am also a singer, mainly of sacred and classical music. My wonderful voice teacher encourages me not to be afraid of those sounds which are not seemingly beautiful. They are part of who I am, who we are. So too I am learning that the music of poetry can come out of the sometimes rougher, more difficult places. I suppose there is an analogy to prayer here.
My favorite part of my job in the library where I work is taking poems to a group of elderly women in a local residence who are in their 80s and 90s. Any subject is game, contrary to what some people think. They have become my teachers about life and what is at stake in a good poem. They say that these poetry reading and talking sessions make them feel “more alive.” Because poems are intimate and touch every state of feeling, they recognize themselves there; they are known, however isolated from “the world” they might be.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.