AMY FLEURYMy Kansas author for the month of March, 2005, is Amy Fleury, a friend ever since she became a member of the Washburn English Department with an office in Morgan Tower (which I shared with Bob Woodley, then Tom Averill, for so many years, and have always considered the best office on campus), then particularly as she took over many of the duties from me, as I retired, to become the managing editor of the Woodley Press--which means that she does most of the work for that organization.
She also assumed the task the department chairman, Dr. Robert Stein, had performed so well for many years as judge and referee on the annual televised high school competition, High Q, another of Washburn's major contributions to liberal education in the state of Kansas.
So, as any good college professor does, she more than earns her salary.
And, more recently, she has become a Kansas writer with a book in print.
Joy Thompson-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Thomas Prasch
Amy's first book of poetry, Beautiful Trouble, won the First Book Award in the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry published by Southern Illinois University Press last year. That book has been very well received. Ted Kooser, the current national poet laureate, from Nebraska, and Karl Fundenberger, the freshman student who reviewed the book for the Washburn Review last October, describe much the same shock of recognition in their first reactions to the book. Ted Kooser, quoted on the back cover, says, "The minute I finished Beautiful Trouble, I wished I had copies to give to all my friends: To the poets, of course, who will admire it for its art, but also to those who don't read poetry. Fleury proves that a book of poems need not be baffling or condescending or self-absorbed. With ordinary words placed with perfect precision, this book throws open dozens of windows onto fresh new ways of seeing, and loving, the world." Karl Fundenberger says, "After reading Amy Fleury's Beautiful Trouble from cover to cover . . . my entire room felt different . . . . Fleury's poetry had put me in a different state of mind. / After a few verses I was hooked. I could not stop reading about Fleury's world--one that centers around a Kansas farm, but extends through family and nature to Texas, the East coast, and even Prague. . . . / Some of the poems express attitudes from a child's perspective, while others represent an older, wiser point of view. . . . expanding to topics of healing, the sense of home and love."
The book was also well reviewed by Joy Thompson in the Washburn Alumni and G. W. Clift in The Kansas City Star, where he remarks that "Like Will Moses and William Stafford and many other good poets of Kansas and our region, Fleury uses nature both as impulse and metaphor. . . . We are more than once reminded of the cycles of life, particularly in relation to farming. . . . And Fleury's poems are never strange or foreign. / Or difficult. They are rich, but they are written in our tongue. . . . finding a way to make her meaning clear in the language of Kansas' pastures and back yards. . . . The beauty of her expressions is the beauty of our unconsciously articulate language."
Then, not only was Amy's book included in The Star's list of "100 Noteworthy Books of 2004" published in November, but it was included in the "Cream of the Crop," the 10 chosen from among that 100 as especially "noteworthy" at the end of the year. (Beautiful Trouble came at the first of that list, in fact, with a "What more could one ask than these earthy, sensual, arresting and sly verses by a Topeka poet?").
I choose as representative of her work, the poem that provides the title for the volume:
And add this poem as the one I like best:
The Fugitive EveIn the first moments of knowing,
juice drips down her chin onto
her breasts. Lips and tongue learn
in this oldest, truest way.
The fruit is round and radiant.
The firm weight of it feels
like power. Shreds of flesh catch
in her teeth, and as she eats
she knows it is good.
He needs no serpent to tempt him.
He just wants what she has, just as she wants him
to want what she holds in her hands.
They share it, then toss the core into a bush,
knowing that this is the beginning of death,
the first and best blessing.
And with the original chill of delight
and shame, she is on the lam,
running through brambles, plum boughs,
and luminous webs, past low-slung branches,
past the birds of the air and beasts of the field,
over the rocky soil, stumbling out
of the garden, out of the numb perfection
of before into the brilliant and difficult ever-after.
She is running and running, she feels
the warm rub of her blood-slicked thighs
and a thudding, which is her heart. He is close
behind her, clutching the pain in his side.
They take hold of one another
in their wonder and woe,
and we call out to them
from our place in the future,
this moment, now. We beg them
with our fragile voices,
Mother, Father, bear us
into the beautiful trouble
of this world.The book is available at the Washburn Bookstore (Memorial Union, Lower Level),
Torn strips of the Kansas City Star, gray news
from 1979, farm crisis headlines dredged in glue
Jimmy Carter's crumpled face pasted
on a yellow balloon. Layer on layer, she
bandaged it with the worry of a maker.
In the opened book was all she knew
of Jupiter--a gaseous ball, distorted and large,
home to a scarlet, ongoing storm. From across
the night, songs came over the radio
into her family's patient house, songs to dance to,
if you cared to, but she hummed instead.
Her face, a curious moon, concentrated
above striations of drying tempera paint, glossy
bronzes and pearled blues. This is how a world
gets born in a kitchen's beneficent light,
a churning wonder coming from an accident of dust,
some child's science project, a flimsy planet
unsuitable for orbit, puckered navel poking out.
Through the window she could see the wide plain,
like an earnest and well-made table holding up
the heavens while she held this new Jupiter.
To lift up a celestial thing, such a satisfying shape,
and to turn it in the blunt span of her hands
was proof enough of her own modest divinity.
or can be ordered from: www.siu.edu/~siupress
To e-mail Amy: email@example.com