My Kansas writer for October, 2001, is Christopher Cokinos,
whose book of poetry, Killing Seasons,
was published by The Woodley Press in 1993.

Cover of Killing Seasons__Picture of Christopher Cokinos___ _Cover of Hope Is the Thing With Feathers

Christopher Cokinos

Christopher Cokinos was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He earned his B.A. in English from Indiana University in Bloomington, where he worked on the staff of Indiana Review.  He received his M.F.A. in writing from Washington University in St. Louis, which awarded him a University Fellowship.  Cokinos currently teaches at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, where he is active in political and environmental issues.  Several of the poems in Killing Seasons, which won the Woodley Press's Robert E. Gross Award for Poetry in 1993, had been published in well known poetry reviews.

Comments on Killing Seasons:

"The poems of Christopher Cokinos are brave, deeply intelligent, and exquisitely clear. Whether examining a treacherous war or the birds and trees immediately outside our windows, he cracks the boundaries between 'public' and 'private' or 'natural' and 'otherwise,' reminding us again and again of the utter necessity of reciprocal, compassionate attention. . . .  These poems elevate and teach. We are lucky to live with them."-- Naomi Shihab Nye

"From nearby meadows cleared for a mall to burning forests visible from space, Killing Seasons laments the destruction of our environment and reminds us that the local and the global are intimately bound.  Charting this delicate ecology, Cokinos waxes neither didactic nor sentimental but looks instead with a loving, tragic gaze at the wounded beauty that could save us from ourselves."--Neal Bowers

"The poems declare repeatedly Cokinos' devotion to the world in which he lives and his unwillingness to see it destroyed.  The poems assert as well his gift for language and his care for technique. . . . The voices of the poems speak often about time, its uses and losses    "--Craig Goad, judge of the 1993 Robert E. Gross Award, and editor of Killing Seasons.

A sample from Killing Seasons:

Loggerhead Shrike

Because thought can be nothing
but what is sensed, can still
sometimes ascend before words,
my thought was wholly
what was seen, the shrike
perched on a branch
in a half-dead cedar.
Grey bird, grey branch, grey sky.
Windwaves of broomsedge and bluestem.
Each movement of the prairie grass, each movement
of the shrike--a wing lifted
for the bill to pick a mite--
each movement like a silent vocable
in the world's as-yet-unending sentence.
In which, somewhere,
a cricket twitched on a thorn,
the cells of its wings imagining
a rhythm for that pain,
but dying.
The shrike turned
to face me, its black
hook bill, then sang
a sudden clattering of notes.
It was so much larger than I thought it would be,
the loggerhead shrike's
splendid grey body, black the wings and mask
and unmasked suddenly
my mind, un-
tamed, wild
as flight, sight's and thought's upward
curve, laborless then strained, taken
with wind-blown birdsong, then
a distant human word yes.

For more information on Killing Seasons (as well as ordering information) see The Woodley Press web site. (Another Killing Seasons poem, "Lunch Hour, Going Back to Work," is also available on that web site.)

Christopher Cokinos's more recent book is Hope Is the Thing with Feathers, published by Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam (New York, 2000), about which he says:

This book has its roots very much in my experience of Kansas.  It was at Kansas marsh that I saw the escaped exotic birds that led me to learn of the former natives of Kansas skies--the Carolina Parakeets and the Passenger Pigeons.  As well, the Greater Prairie Chicken, which still abides here in Kansas, is a cousin to the now-extinct Heath Hen.  I'm deeply gratified that the book has moved readers.  Despite the tragedies of extinction--and human evil of all kinds--we live in a world where beauty and kinship can carry us through to a better future, so long as we strive for that.  And I hope that the stories in Hope . . . may help that process along.
For more information on that book, take a look at the listing on Amazon.com.

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