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Bruce Cutler map Sun City
Bruce Cutler, Kansas Poet,  photograph

Bruce Cutler

A West Wind Rises by Bruce Cutler

Seein the Darknesss by Bruce Cutler

Dark Fire by Bruce Cutler

Sun City by Bruce Cutler





Bruce Cutler was born October 8, 1930, in Evanston, Illinois. He attended Northwestern University, the University of Iowa and the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (now Kansas State University, Manhattan), where he received his M.S. in 1957. He did further graduate study at the Universita degli Studi in 1957-58.

His early career found him at Wichita State University, where he taught in the English Department between 1960 and 1978, serving as Professor, Distinguished Professor of Humanities, Adele M. Davis Distinguished Professor of Humanities, and, from 1967, coordinator of the creative writing program, the first in Kansas to offer the Master of Fine Arts in fiction and poetry.

While in Kansas, he became interested in the history, culture and landscape of place, and in 1962 (a year after the celebration of the Kansas statehood centennial) he published A West Wind Rises: The Marais des Cygnes Massacre. In 1964, he used Sun City, Kansas, in a collection of that name. In 1969 he edited the poetry of Wellington poet and woodcut artist May Williams Ward, for a collection In That Day.

Cutler was very active in the Fulbright program, traveling to and teaching in Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, Spain, and Switzerland. He also traveled in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Honduras, and Panama.

Cutler published eleven books of poetry, beginning with a First Book Poetry Award in 1960 from the University of Nebraska Press for The Year of the Green Wave. One of his last books, The Massacre at Sand Creek, was nominated for a National Book Award in 1995.

In 1999, the Washburn University Center for Kansas Studies worked with Cutler to reprint A West Wind Rises, partly set near Trading Post, Kansas. Cutler died of kidney cancer, March 24, 2001, in Santa Cruz, California.

This obituary appeared in the Los Angeles Times:
Bruce Cutler, 70, an American poet who wrote narrative long poems on subjects ranging from the settling of the American frontier to gangs in Chicago. His first book, "The Year of the Green Wave," was published in 1960 and was followed over the next 40 years by a dozen more. His "The Massacre at Sand Creek" told the story of the massacre of hundreds of Cheyenne by the U.S. Cavalry. Published in 1995 and nominated for a National Book Award, the poem explained the attack from several points of view including the officer who led the assault, an officer who refused to let his men fire on the Indians and the Cheyenne themselves. Born in Evanston, Ill., Cutler was a conscientious objector to military service in the early 1950s and, after a legal challenge, performed alternate service in Mexico and El Salvador. A graduate of the University of Iowa, Cutler taught English at Wichita State, where he founded the school's creative writing program. Cutler's last book, "At War With Mexico: A Fictional Mosaic," came out a week before his death on March 24 in Santa Cruz of complications from kidney cancer.

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Bibliography ( - housed in Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection)  


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Writing Samples  
  ---from Dark Fire

IV, Another Side

Somehow she found herself outside.
Moonscape of hackberry trees and fence
and the wrecks that Speck collected at the head
of a ravine, upended, wheeling stars…
going? As she thought it, it occurred to her that she was out
of there too, able to ask the question. Out.

---from Sun City

Sun City

Three thousand days of Kansas sun,
and it comes on again: the six o'clock
and steel perimeter
upturns beyond the sums and squares
of window sash, and runs
along the asphalt shingles
of a roof curling
into coral conflagration,
the air between us burning,
burning into day.

autographed title page

---from A Voyage to America

The Plains Are Hills

The plains are hills
                                          are a salt-sea deep
that boil on brines of a billion years,

are skinned by winds to skullsmooth mounds;—
drawn clean as a needle
                                                   through ocean eyes

you stand, a man
                                     a moving mark, appear
at daysend and the long decline of One

whose wheel insinuates its flame in dust.
Quick choirs of Venus,
                                                the winds reply.

Angel, god
                        god and angel, touch my thigh.
Disclose your dell, unloose your limestone spring

tear up the sunruts to the sex of hills:
reveal, reveal
                              grind me on your wheel of going

rattle your bones of days
                                                      and make me dance
tease me with your milk, summon me with blood

for the way goes down to dark. There is fruit hanging on the arms of night,
                                                            there is thyme

and thistle
                         there are presences in air
blacksnake agonies in grass, banks of clouds

broken by wind-hooves, the stars in shards.
There is another in my bone,
                                                              some one,

                      and one
one riding the rim of day
one locked in dark escarpments of the night.

Another. Hair stands up like quills. My eyes,
my heart, divide
                                sink like stone in their seeming.

---from The Maker's Name

There is prose in Kansas

There is prose in Kansas,
     trains and jets,
     wheat and milo.
Mostly there is prose in Kansas.

Say at Solomon Fork
     you find a Santa Fe Mixed 26
     that makes its way
from Rago Spivey, Zenda

hauling gypsum, turkey-red
     and in the coach-express
     fresh flowers, milk,
a young Dalmatian in a cage,

and Ammon and Amos Unruh,
     Amishmen who do not choose
     to recognize
the button or the Ford,

smiling completely
     eating knockwurst-cheese
     and nodding as the red
(so help me) lantern passes.

And then your Buick jumps
     across the rails as straight
      as sonar at a mirror-glint:
there are long rat-tails that kerosene

has swatched across the sky
     and a sound
     like someone's strangulation;
taking out your roadmap you can still

see trainsmoke
     hobble along a long horizon,
     barely gray
beneath six sabrejets.

There is prose in Kansas,
     trains and jets
     wheat and milo
Mostly there is prose in Kansas.

Dedicated to Bruce Cutler:

We Sell the Earth
--Farmville, VA realty slogan

The Herald's Classifieds read, reread
a hundred times, it's not the hubris
but the breach of etiquette that's surprising--
in a foyerful of well- spoken khaki,
navy blazers, brie and chardonnay
the rhetorical fart, ripe
and gunshot-loud.

Dear friend, without you here
where can I carry absurd outrage to?
You'd have smiled, recalled Petronius,
reminded me of Weil's title: "The Iliad,
a Poem of Force." How do we sell
what we belong to? How amortize the sky,
birdsong, an acre of grass?

You understood the lure of irony, its cool
dry tang between the teeth; knew too
how outrage carries its own Achilles heel.
You gentled what you touched:
see the shadows in the hackberry glade;
the wheat is a wheyey wish under
sun and wind.
And you saw the facts

for what they were: the Sand Creek massacre
a wave of flotsam soldiery that surges over
the banks . . . taking out their bowie knives to start
to hack at the scalps, to take off fingers three
at a time and get at the rings, to take the noses,
take the ears, take the lips and testicles,
take the blankets, take the buffalo robes;
the CT scan's flecks on lung and kidney,
cancer's dark arpeggios. In their shadows,
quietly, you danced.

Friend--far from what you called
this grainy thorax of the world,
a quick wish from out east: Be
well. I just want to tell you
how steadily the earth moves,
how silently the green rhetoric of leaves
reveals the Trail of Tears.

---Craig Challender, from As Details Become Available, Pecan Grove Press, 2012.

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