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Poems by Ken Fontenot


“Ken Fontenot is one of the most original, moving poets in the world. I have treasured his work for years—his images startle us awake. His wisdom sears.”NAOMI SHIHAB NYE, a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and author of Transfer

“In Fontenot’s In a Kingdom of Birds, I find exactly the kind of poems for which I am most grateful: poems self-aware enough to recognize that in all things exist both tragedy and light, but poems not so besotted with that conniving paradox to dwell too solemnly on it for too long. There’s exquisite craft in knowing how to navigate those skies. And navigate them, he does, a bird himself in this kingdom of birds. For truly, everything does both fly and sing—the great gray owl, the swan of stretched legs, the panting sparrow, the quickening sparrow, the nighthawk, the black-throated grackle, the foraging doves. As well, the gnat that lands inside the poet’s ear, the oscillating fan his grandmother keeps running for decades straight, and the loose, elusive presence of the ghosts of both the living and the dead: the strangely solid phantom forms of friends, relations, lovers, and authors that haunt the walls of this poetic house (to be sure, it is a just, benevolent, knowledge-weary haunting of which I speak). And too: the ghosts of those ghosts.

“‘Light has everything to do with pain, / and darkness has everything to do / with love,’ Fontenot writes. And later, ‘the world is bleak, the world is glorious You go on filling your jar of hope with yet more hope.’ These poems convince me that night is solely purposed for better viewing of the stars, and the stars’ own shimmering brightness exists to remind us that an outer darkness sorely looms.”JILL ALEXANDER ESSBAUM, Winner of the Katharine Bakeless Nason Poetry Prize

KEN FONTENOT received an MA in German Language and Literature from the University of Texas at Austin. During the school year 1986-87 he was awarded a DAAD fellowship to study in Freiburg, Germany. His novel, For Mr. Raindrinker, is set in 1970s New Orleans. His collection of poems, All My Animals and Stars, won the Austin Book Award. His translations of contemporary poems from the German have appeared widely. In a Kingdom of Birds is his third book of poetry.

A native New Orleanian, Fontenot lives and works in Austin, Texas.


Robbing the Cradle.pdf          For a Young Boy Who Asks.pdf


A Shrimp Boat in Port Aransas.pdf

From a review by A Word’s Worth:

“Fontenot’s poems based on Louisiana experiences are seductive to me, a native Louisianan . . . Many of Fontenot’s poems are rooted in irony. In “Poets and Blackberries,” he grounds the poem in ordinary problems like being indigent, then moves into hope . . . Fontenot’s lyrics speak to the philosophical mind; they are sometimes brittle but are filled with energy and never sentimental. In natural and imaginative imagery, Fontenot brings us to the edge and leads us back.”  Read the Full Review.


WINNER OF THE 2013 Texas Institute of Letters



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Just a Trace of Moon (2013)

New and Selected Poems

6"x9" paperback

88 pages