Kirby, David K. 1944–

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Kirby, David K. 1944–

(David Kirk Kirby)

PERSONAL: Born November 29, 1944, in Baton Rouge, LA; son of Thomas Austin (a professor) and Josie (a school teacher; maiden name, Dyson) Kirby; married Judy Kates (a high school French teacher), March 21, 1969 (divorced); married Barbara Hamby (a poet), 1981; children: William, Ian. Education: Louisiana State University, B.A., 1966; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D., 1969.

ADDRESSES: Home—1168 Seminole Dr., Tallahassee, FL 32301-4656. Office—Department of English, 420 Williams Bldg., Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1580; fax: 850-644-0811. E-mail[email protected].

CAREER: Poet, critic, writer, and educator. Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL, assistant professor, 1969–74, director of writing program, 1973–77, associate professor, 1974–79, professor, 1979–89, McKenzie Professor of English, 1989–2003, Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor, 2003–04, assistant executive vice-president, 1975–77; Florida State University Study Center in Florence, Italy, faculty member, 1973; also taught in other Florida State University international programs in England, France, and Spain. Has conducted workshops and seminars for groups, including elementary school children and prison inmates; member of Board of Directors of the National Book Critics Circle.

MEMBER: Associated Writing Programs, Modern Language Association of America, Melville Society, National Book Critics Circle, National Council of Teachers of English, College English Association, South Atlantic Modern Language Association.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pushcart Prize Outstanding Writer Citations, 1978, 1984, for poetry, and 1987, for nonfiction; grants from Florida Arts Council, 1983, 1989, 1996, and 2002; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1985; Brittingham Prize in Poetry, 1987, for Saving Young Men of Vienna; W. Guy McKensie Professorship, 1989; College of Arts and Sciences Teaching Award, Florida State University, 1990; University Teaching Awards, Florida State University, 1992, 1997; Pushcart Prize, 2001; Guggenheim Fellow, 2003.



The Opera Lover: Poems, Anhinga Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1977.

Sarah Bernhardt's Leg: Poems, Cleveland State University Poetry Center (Cleveland, OH), 1983.

Diving for Poems, World Beat Press (Tallahassee, FL), 1985.

Saving the Young Men of Vienna, University of Wisconsin Press (Madison, WI), 1987.

Big Leg Music, Orchises (Alexandria, VA), 1995.

My Twentieth Century: Poems, Orchises (Washington, DC), 1999.

The House of Blue Light: Poems, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2000.

The Travelling Library: Three Poems, Orchises (Washington, DC), 2001.

The Ha-Ha: Poems, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 2003.

I Think I Am Going to Call My Wife Paraguay: Selected Early Poems, Orchises (Washington, DC), 2004.


(With Allen Woodman) The Cows Are Going to Paris, illustrated by Chris L. Demarest, Caroline House (Honesdale, PA), 1991.

(With Allen Woodman) The Bear Who Came to Stay, illustrated by Harvey Stevenson, Bradbury Press (New York, NY), 1994.


(Editor, with Kenneth H. Baldwin) Individual and Community: Variations on a Theme in American Fiction, Duke University Press (Durham, NC), 1975.

American Fiction to 1900: Guide to Information Sources, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1975.

America's Hive of Honey: or, Foreign Influences on American Fiction through Henry James, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1980.

Grace King, Twayne (Boston, MA), 1980.

The Sun Rises in the Evening: Monism and Quietism in Western Culture, Scarecrow Press (Metuchen, NJ), 1982.

Dictionary of Contemporary Thought, Macmillan (London, England), 1984.

The Plural World: An Interdisciplinary Glossary of Contemporary Thought, Garland (New York, NY), 1984.

Writing Poetry: Where Poems Come from and How to Write Them, Writer (Boston, MA), 1989, revised edition, 1997.

Mark Strand and the Poet's Contemporary Culture, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1990.

Boyishness in American Culture: The Charms and Dangers of Social Immaturity, E. Mellen Press (Lewiston, NY), 1991.

The Portrait of a Lady and The Turn of the Screw: Henry James and Melodrama, Macmillan (Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, England), 1991.

Herman Melville, Continuum (New York, NY), 1993.

What Is a Book?, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2002.

Contributor of poems, reviews, and essays to numerous journals and periodicals, including the New York Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice, Writer, Quarterly, Southern Review, Sewanee Review, Ploughshares, College English, Virginia Quarterly Review, Christian Science Monitor, and the Gettysburg Review.

SIDELIGHTS: David K. Kirby is the author and coauthor of numerous books of literary criticism, two children's books, and several volumes of poetry. As a poet, Kirby often incorporates humor into his poems, which are known for their conversational style. "The words and the rhythm are conversational, despite their velocity, creating the illusion of everybody speech—even though it's safe to say that nobody really talks like that," noted Steve Macqueen in Florida Trend. "Kirby has his own term for the style—'ultra-talk.'" Kirby told Macqueen: "I wanted to make my poetry conversational but take out the 'uhs' and 'ums,' give it a cup of coffee, and just make it smart and funny and fast." In a review of Kirby's My Twentieth Century: Poems, Library Journal contributor Graham Christian noted that the author "writes verse closer to the rhythms of popular culture … than the traditional sources of lyric poetry."

In The House of Blue Light: Poems, Kirby's fifth collection of poetry, the poet reflects on his own middle-aged life and circumstances. Writing in Booklist, Ray Olson noted that "the dominant motif in these brilliantly prattling poems is his own bozohood." A Publishers Weekly contributor called the poems "disarming in their lack of pretense and posturing." In his next effort, The Travelling Library: Three Poems, Kirby writes about a trip he took to Europe. Frank Allen, writing in the Library Journal, called the book "a beautiful and sane feat of poems."

In The Ha-Ha: Poems, Kirby presents whimsical poems, such as one about a man who suddenly is able to see himself in the past and wishes he could change things based on his current experience and knowledge of life. Library Journal contributor Diane Scharper noted that the poems are "a combination of anecdotes, repartee, and verbal wit." I Think I Am Going to Call My Wife Paraguay: Selected Early Poems presents Kirby writing about a variety of topics, from literature to his personal life to rock music. Writing in Booklist, Olson noted that the "early Kirby is wilder, smarterassed, more sentimental."

In addition to his poetry, Kirby has collaborated with Allen Woodman on children's books. The Cows Are Going to Paris features bovines who decide to take a train to Paris and act like tourists. In The Bear Who Came to Stay, a bear visits a family and takes on their life of watching television and brushing its teeth while the family goes out to live in the forest and sleep in a cave. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted the book's "high quotient of cuteness."

Among Kirby's books of criticism is What Is a Book?, in which the author explores literature though seventeen essays, including essays about such writers as Hermann Melville, Henry James, and Charles Wright. Writing in Booklist, Donna Seaman commented that What Is a Book? "radiantly celebrates our unceasing love and need for books." Library Journal contributor Paul D'Alessandro wrote: "An important and useful book that is also surprisingly pleasurable and entertaining to read."

Kirby told CA: "As a writer and a teacher of writing I have two principles: (1) reverence toward language and (2) irreverence toward everything else, including myself and my own writing. I'm addicted to poetry readings, workshops, professional meetings, conferences, lectures—any situation which is likely to result in wit, brilliance, animated conversation, and perhaps a congenial glass or two among friends. I appreciate anyone who writes anything that interests me, no matter how they do it or what form it takes."



Booklist, January 15, 1994, review of The Bear Who Came to Stay, p. 940; September 1, 2000, Ray Olson, review of The House of Blue Light, p. 58; March 15, 2001, Ray Olson, review of The House of Blue Light: Poems, p. 1349; November 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of What Is a Book?, p. 468; December 15, 2003, Ray Olson, review of I Think I Am Going to Call My Wife Paraguay: Selected Early Poems, p. 721.

Childhood Education, winter, 2002, Colleen McAndrew, review of The Cows Are Going to Paris, p. 110.

Choice, April, 1994, M.S. Stephenson, review of Herman Melville, p. 940.

Florida Trend, February, 2004, Steve Macqueen, "Sho' Like to Ball," interview with author, p. S12.

Library Journal, May 15, 1999, Graham Christian, review of My Twentieth Century: Poems, p. 99; September 1, 2000, Ann K. van Buren, review of The House of Blue Light, p. 214; January, 2002, Frank Allen, review of The Travelling Library: Three Poems, p. 109; November 15, 2002, Paul D'Alessandro, review of What Is a Book?, p. 71; October 1, 2003, Diane Scharper, review of The Ha-Ha: Poems, p. 80.

Ploughshares, fall, 2004, review of The Ha-Ha, p. 215.

Publishers Weekly, December 20, 1993, review of The Bear Who Came to Stay, p. 70; October 30, 2000, review of The House of Blue Light, p. 72.

School Library Journal, May, 1994, Lisa S. Murphy, review of The Bear Who Came to Stay, p. 105.


David Kirby Home Page, (November 7, 2005).