Some Sort of Ramshackle Nest: Remembering Steve Kowit (1938-2015)

Steve Kowit (1938-2015)I found out yesterday that my beloved poetry teacher, Steve Kowit, died earlier this month.  And so I spent the afternoon reading poems and crying, even stumbled upon videos of Steve reading his work.  What strikes me about the body of work he leaves behind, is how rooted so much of it is in the landscape of San Diego County–the clear, dry place that informs so much of my interior space.

Steve Kowit taught me to keep a writer’s notebook, introduced me to mindfulness meditation and zen, to the poems of Mary Oliver and Sharon Olds.  In place of Eugen Herrigel’s Zen and the Art of Archery, he used class time to teach us how to juggle tennis balls.  He was generous, expansive, and crotchety!  If you’re looking for a “portable poetry workshop” you’ll find none better than his book In the Palm of Your Hand.  (And if you’re not looking for a portable poetry workshop, why the heck not?)  His anthology called The Maverick Poets is unparalleled; it just contains so many really good, essential poems.  Steve recommended making your own anthology: collecting those poems that move or astonish or turn on lights for you, and using them as the bedrock of your own creative work.

Over the years I’ve shared a few of his poems here:

The Blue Dress



All of these poems can be found in the collection called The Dumbbell Nebula.  And then there are the wonderful recordings that I discovered yesterday:

Dusk In The Cuyamacas

Refugees, Late Summer Night

Perognatious Fallax 

(The title of this post comes from this wonder of a poem.)

april-13-113-1024x768This was not the post I was meaning to write, the one about simple ways to establish the practice of welcoming poems every day.  But there will be time for that another day.  For now let these good words from “Notice” sustain you:

Take heed, you who read this,
& drop to your knees now & again
like the poet Christopher Smart,
& kiss the earth & be joyful,
& make much of your time,
& be kindly to everyone

You can find more poems at Poetry Friday hosted today by Robyn Hood Black.


  1. I’m sorry for your loss, Kortney. He sounds like an incredible teacher, and I look forward to following some of these links you’ve kindly shared. Thanks for joining up with Poetry Friday this week!

  2. My heart hurts for your loss…but I thank you for the reminder in “Notice.” I’ve never been afraid to get the knees of my pants nor my lips dirty. I’ll give the good green earth a kiss in honor of your teacher.

  3. Oh, Kortney. I am very sorry for your loss. When I saw your post and reference to Steve’s death, immediately I thought of “Notice.” Thank you for sharing these words and too, these book suggestions. I am off to check them out. He will always be with you – and reminding all of us who read his words – how to live. xo

  4. Kortney,
    Thank you for this post. I was our of town last weekend and am just now getting to reading your post. I did not know that Steve Kowitt had died. What a great loss. He was such a generous man. I’ve taken several workshops with him at Pima Community College. I was always amazed at his ability to push me beyond my comfort zone into writing poems I never knew I was capable of writing. He was so much fun to have for a teacher. I feel your loss.

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