“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 FONTENOTreceived 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, isset 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.
“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.