Burt Kimmelman

TRAIN TO IZMIR (January 2012)


Low hanging cloud cover,

plowed fields, squat trees, crouched stone

station where we enter

a town, electrical

lines, satellite TV

antennas, a distant


minaret, hills either

side of the platform, grave

markers among tall grass,

a circling river, bridge

over it, half-built

homes nearby — we peer in.



                I take SPACE to be the central fact to man
                born in America, from Folsom Cave to now.
                I spell it large because it comes large here.
                Large, and without mercy. - Charles Olson

I look out on the vast, flat sea

from hills behind a bog winding

down to a sandy inlet, shore

beyond it, open to the sun —

and now know why space is the fact

of our lives and why, a large man,

he needed a large page to write

that language, an unkempt story.


Scratched into a notebook or scrawled

on the walls of his apartment,

the words inhabit a place, find

the will in ocean, continent—

set directions from the harbor

for “islands hidden in the blood”

or, water at his back, the peopled

land glimpsed “from this place where I am.”

2 July 2012


BURT KIMMELMAN‘s seventh collection of poems, The Way We Live (Dos Madres Press) appeared in late 2011. For over a decade he was Senior Editor of the now defunct Poetry New York: A Journal of Poetry and Translation. In addition to his poetry, he has published five books of literary criticism, two of them monographs including The “Winter Mind”: William Bronk and American Letters (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1998), and more than eighty articles on medieval, modern, and contemporary poetry. “Taking Dinner to My Mother,” a poem from his collection, As If Free (Talisman House, 2009), was featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac. Recent interviews of Kimmelman are available online: with Tom Fink in Jacket2 (text), and with George Spencer at Poetry Thin Air (video). More on Kimmelman can be found most recently at “Burt Kimmelman: A Survey” (critical commentary and poetry samples selected by Karl Young, a part of his Light & Dust Poetry Anthology) as well as at BurtKimmelman.com.