Kenneth Lee Irby: A chronology

Kenneth Irby, self-portrait at sixteen.
October 18, 1936 Hears Duke Ellington’s band “from the womb” when parents Addison Craft and Dora Elizabeth Irby attend one of Ellington’s concerts at the Texas Centennial Exposition in Dallas.[1]
November 18, 1936

Born in Bowie, Texas, the second son of Addison Craft (physician) and Dora Elizabeth (nurse) Irby.

March 1940 Irby family moves to Fort Scott, Kansas.
1954–58 Attends University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, where he receives BA in history; invited to join Phi Beta Kappa Society; meets Edward Grier, professor of English and later acquaintance of Robert Duncan, Edward Dorn, Robert Creeley, and other poets in the New American Poetry milieu.
Summers 1955–57 Visits Mexico City, where he stays with older brother James, who is working toward a master’s degree at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
1958–60 Attends graduate program in Far Eastern studies at Harvard University, where he begins to learn Chinese and Japanese, and receives MA.
March 1959 Meets Charles Olson in Grolier Bookstore, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
August 1960–August 1962 Drafted in the army; serves at Nevada Test Site, Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Johnston Island.
December 1960 Meets Ed Dorn in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
July 9, 1962 Witnesses the detonation of a W49 thermonuclear warhead 250 miles overhead, from the deck of an aircraft carrier, as part of the Starfish Prime high altitude nuclear test, nineteen miles southwest of Johnston Island.[2]
1962–63 Briefly resumes graduate studies at Harvard before finally withdrawing from PhD program.
September 1962 Visits Charles Olson in Gloucester, Massachusetts, with Bob Grenier.
August 1963 Moves to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Summer/Fall 1963 Begins regularly writing book reviews for Kulchur.
1963–64 Works as staff member, Sandia Corporation, Albuquerque, New Mexico.
1964 The Roadrunner Poem is published by Duende Press, Placitas, New Mexico.
September 1964 Moves to San Francisco, California.
January 1965 Moves to Berkeley, California.
Summer 1965 Works as store manager, Duncan MacAndrew, merchant tailors. Kansas–New Mexico is published by Dialogue Press, Lawrence, Kansas. Movements/Sequences is published by Duende Press, Placitas, New Mexico.
1967–68 Attends University of California, Berkeley, where he receives MLS.
1968 The Flower of Having Passed Through Paradise in a Dream: Poems 1967 is published by Matter Books, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.
1969–71 Works as duplicating machine operator, Institute of Traffic and Transportation Engineering, University of California, Berkeley.
1970 Relation: Poems, 1965–66 is published by Black Sparrow Press, Los Angeles, California.
1971–73 Works as lecturer (one year), then assistant professor (one year), Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts.
1971 To Max Douglas is published by Tansy Press, Lawrence, Kansas.
September 1, 1972 Meets eccentric prairie historian James C. Malin in Lawrence, Kansas, introduced by mutual friend, Michael Brodhead.
January 20, 1973 Meets pioneering cultural geographer Carl O. Sauer at the Alta Bates Hospital, Berkeley, California, introduced by mutual friend Bob Callahan.
Summer 1973 Vort 3 appears, dedicated to the work of Irby and David Bromige, with contributions from Don Byrd and Robert Creeley, among others.
1973–74 Works as visiting professor, Copenhagen University.
1974 To Max Douglas, second enlarged edition (including “Jesus” and “Delius”), with an introduction by Edward Dorn, is published by Tansy-Peg Leg Press, Lawrence, Kansas.
1974–75 Receives Fulbright travel grant. Returns to Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, as assistant professor.
1976–77 Returns to Berkeley, California. Archipelago is published by Tuumba Press, Willits, California. In Excelsis Borealis is published by White Creek Press, Cambridge, New York. For the Snow Queen is published by Tansy Press, Lawrence, Kansas (issued as Tansy 1).
January 1977 Returns to Fort Scott, Kansas, to assist his mother in the sale of the Eddy St. house.
June 1977 Moves to Lawrence, Kansas, with his mother. Catalpa: Poems, 1968–1973 is published by Tansy Press, Lawrence, Kansas.
1978 From Some Etudes is published by Tansy Press, Lawrence, Kansas (issued as Tansy 9).
February 1979 Credences 7 appears, “In Celebration of Kenneth Irby,” containing essays and prose reflections by David Bromige, Robert Kelly, Paul Metcalf, and George Quasha, among many others.
1981 Orexis is published by Station Hill Press, Barrytown, New York. Riding the Dog is published by Zelot Press, Greensburg, Pennsylvania (issued as The Zelot, no. 4).
1983 A Set is published by Tansy Press, Lawrence, Kansas.
1985 Works as lecturer in English, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
March 1986 Delivers three lectures on Walt Whitman, Poetics Program, New College, San Francisco, California.
Spring 1992 Notus 10 appears, half of the issue dedicated to an overview of Irby’s writing, including both new and previously published poems, as well as two new essays over his work by Stephen Ellis and Edward Schelb, respectively. Calls Steps: Plains, Camps, Stations, Consistories is collaboratively published by Station Hill Press, Barrytown, New York, and Tansy Press, Lawrence, Kansas.
1994 Antiphonal and Fall to Fall is published by Kavyayantra Press, Boulder, Colorado.
1997 Appointed associate professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
2001 Studies: Cuts, Shots, Takes — a notebook sequence, August–December 1999 is published by First Intensity Press, Lawrence, Kansas (issued as First Intensity Chapbooks no. 2). Ridge to Ridge: Poems 1990–2000 is published by Other Wind Press, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
2003 In Denmark: Poems 1973–74 is published in No: A journal of the Arts no. 2, New York, NY.
2009 The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962–2006 is published by North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, California.
2010 Irby receives the Memorial Shelley Award (corecipient, with Eileen Myles) from the Poetry Society of America.
2012 Promoted to full professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.



1. In the final lines of the poem beginning with the line “the Crystal Ballroom, Fargo, North Dakota,” Irby writes: “snow snow snow over Kansas / my unknown, my just before I was born country / my parents saw Ellington in Dallas in 1936 at the centennial / I heard him from the womb.” Kenneth Irby, The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962–2006 (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2009), 331. For information on Ellington’s participation in the centennial festivities, see: Dreck Spurlock Wilson, African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865–1945 (New York and London: Taylor and Francis, 2004), 345, as well as A. H. Lawrence, Duke Ellington and His World (New York and Oxford: Taylor and Francis, 2003), 202, 345. One can also view three short films of the exposition (not Ellington’s performance, unfortunately) on the website of the Texas Archive of the Moving Image.

2. On the National Public Radio website, one can watch excerpts from the “Starfish Prime Test Interim Report by Commander JTF-8,” which include footage of the 1.4 megaton detonation, shot in Honolulu, almost 900 miles from the warhead’s launching point.