For a poetry that yields such immediate and immense pleasure, the work of Joseph Donahue remains hard to characterize. As the author of seven volumes — including the forthcoming Red Flash on a Black Field and Dark Church, the third installment of his ongoing Terra Lucida serial project — Joseph Donahue has spent almost three decades crafting a sensibility that straddles the often-reductive binaries of literary discourse.
Although Kenneth Irby, a distinguished innovative poet, has recently become better known, he deserves to be much better known than he presently is. In 2009 he published a massive book of poems, The Intent On: Collected Poems, 1962–2006, which for the first time provided easy access to the full body of his work and ample evidence of how productive he has been over the years. Before this book, I think, few people realized how prolific he has been.
The following nineteen poems, ordered chronologically, were written between 1959, when Irby was a graduate student in far Eastern studies at Harvard, and 1972, when he was again living in Boston, teaching as an assistant professor at Tufts. Thirteen of these poems are first published in this special feature, while the six remaining are reprinted here for the first time since they initially appeared in literary journals of modest distribution during the 1960s and early 1970s.