David Kirby Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

David Kirby’s rise as a scholar has paralleled his ascent as a poet; in many ways he exemplifies the well-rounded and diversified modern man of letters. In addition to his poetry, he has written criticism, commentaries, essays, reviews, and scholarly works. He has produced books on Henry James (America’s Hive of Honey: Or, Foreign Influences on American Fiction Through Henry James, 1980, and“The Portrait of a Lady” and “The Turn of the Screw”: Henry James and Melodrama, 1991) and New Orleans writer Grace King (Grace King, 1980). Additionally, he has written books on subjects as diverse as Western culture, modern culture, and American boyishness (The Sun Rises in the Evening: Monism and Quietism in Western Culture, 1982; The Plural World: An Interdisciplinary Glossary of Contemporary Thought, 1984; and Boyishness in American Culture: The Charms and Dangers of Social Immaturity, 1991). He has also written scholarly considerations of the writer Herman Melville (Herman Melville, 1993) and poet Mark Strand (Mark Strand and the Poet’s Contemporary Culture, 1990). His two collections of essays, What Is a Book? (2002) and Ultra-Talk: Johnny Cash, the Mafia, Shakespeare, Drum Music, St. Teresa of Avila, and Seventeen Other Colossal Topics of Conversation (2007), have collected many of his diverse and popular essays previously published in a variety of journals and magazines. In collaboration with Allen Woodman, two of his poems were rewritten as children’s books: The Cows Are Going to Paris (1991) and The Bear Who Came to Stay (1994).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

David Kirby’s career has been filled with awards. He received grants from the Florida Arts Council (1983, 1989, 1996, 2002) and the National Endowment for the Arts(1985). His third collection, Saving the Young Men of Vienna, won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry in 1987, and some of his poems were chosen for the Best American Poetry anthology series in 2000, 2001, 2006, and 2007. He won Pushcart Prizes in 1978, 1984, 1987, and 2001, as well as the Guy Owen Prize, the Kay Deeter Award, the James Dickey Prize, and the James Boatwright III Prize for Poetry in 2004. In 2003, he won a Guggenheim Fellowship. As a professor, Kirby won the Arts and Science Teaching Award at Florida State University in 1990 and the University Teaching Award in 1992 and 1997. He was the W. Guy McKenzie Professor of English (for excellence in the profession) from 1989 to 2003 and served as the Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor, the highest honor given faculty at Florida State University, from 2003 to 2004. The House on Boulevard St. was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Award for Poetry and the Florida Book Awards Gold Medal in Poetry. His The Temple Gate Called Beautiful also received the Florida Book Awards Gold Medal in Poetry. He served as a member of the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Clark, Kevin. “Everyman’s Monologist.” Review of The House on Boulevard St. Southern Review 44, no. 1 (2008): 195-200. Provides an insightful commentary on Kirby’s narrative style.

Halliday, Mark. “Gabfest.” Parnassus: Poetry in Review 26, no. 2 (2002): 203-215. Halliday considers the return of narrative poetry (as opposed to poetry that relies more on oblique symbols and imagery), particularly focusing on Kirby’s work.

Hamby, Barbara, and David Kirby. “Pleasure First: A History of Ultra-Talk Poetry.” TriQuarterly 128 (Spring, 2007): 11-18. An essay by the poet and his wife about the discursive nature of narrative poetry and the aims of such poetry.

Klappert, Peter. “The Invention of the Kirby Poem.” Southern Review 36, no. 1 (2000): 196-207. A useful consideration of Kirby’s evolution as a poet and an examination of his poetic technique.

Olson, Ray. Review of The Temple Gate Called Beautiful. Booklist 104, no. 15 (April 1, 2008): 19. Finds Kirby’s sense of humor in these poems about the afterlife, but notes more sadness than in some of Kirby’s other works.