Poets and children’s literature aficionados no doubt know that celebrated American writer X.J. Kennedy turned 83 this week. A textbook and children’s lit author, poet, teacher, and translator, Kennedy has earned many literary awards throughout his distinguished career, from the 1961 Lamont Award from the Academy of American Poets (now known as the James Laughlin Award) and the Los Angeles Book Award for poetry in 1985 to the 2004 Poets’ Prize and the Poetry Society of America’s Robert Frost Medal for lifetime service to poetry in 2009.
Kennedy’s published three collections of verse with the JHU Press and one translation. On his Writers Almanac NPR segment this past Tuesday, Garrison Keillor celebrated Kennedy by reading “Décor,” from Kennedy’s most recent poetry collection, In a Prominent Bar In Secaucus. An elegant, short poem, “Décor” embodies Kennedy’s statement that “I like poems where you don’t really know whether to laugh or cry when you read them.”
This funky pizza parlor decks its walls
With family portraits some descendant junked,
Ornately framed, the scrap from dealers’ hauls,
Their names and all who cherished them defunct.
These pallid ladies in strict corsets locked,
These gentlemen in yokes of celluloid—
What are they now? Poor human cuckoo clocks,
Fixed faces doomed to hang and look annoyed
While down they stare in helpless resignation
From painted backdrops—waterfalls and trees—
On blue-jeaned lovers making assignation
Over a pepperoni double cheese.
In slightly belated celebration of X.J. Kennedy’s birthday we’re offering our blog readers the chance to win a copy of any one of the four books he’s published with the JHU Press; Lords of Misrule, Dark Horses, the aforementioned In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus, or his translation of Guillaume Apollinaire’s The Bestiary, or Procession of Orpheus. Simply be the first person to post in comments what poetic form X.J. Kennedy is best known for and we’ll send you a copy of the Kennedy book of your choice.
Want a little inspiration? Give a listen to Kennedy reading from The Bestiary.