July 19, 2014

Readorama: Former Kansas poet laureate finds solid rock in new collection

Denise Low, a former Kansas poet laureate, has published a new volume of verse, “Mélange Block,” in which she explores the Midwestern terrain of her home region. Parkville lawyer and freelance writer Tiffany Killoren describes her novel “Six Weeks in Petrograd” as a perfect “beach read.”

White strata collapse into ruins.

Thunderheads tumble dry counties.

Throngs of geese breathe one chorus.

Buried limestone transmutes into flint.

So goes “Flint Hills Lullaby,” one of 44 poems in “Mélange Block,” a new volume of verse by Denise Low of Lawrence.

In a recent book of essays, “Natural Theologies,” Low speculated as to whether writers working in the Midwest and Great Plains shared a discernible voice. One point seemed reasonable enough: the bigger the sky, the leaner the language.

In “Mélange Block,” Low turns her gaze to the ground.

“A ‘mélange block’ is a geological term for rock that is made out of a lot of different things fused together,” said Low, who served as poet laureate of Kansas from 2007 through 2009.

“That is also true for some of the poems; they are bits and pieces fused together.”

Low has marked the recent publication of “Mélange Block” by Red Mountain Press of New Mexico with several readings, one of them at the Raven bookstore in Lawrence.

“I invited my fellow poets to come down and read with me, so there were a variety of voices,” Low said.

“Poetry is about community. Poets celebrate the joys of language, fellowship and community.

“It’s fun being a poet.”

Low has scheduled September readings in Topeka and Excelsior Springs; for more info, go to

‘Beach read’

Tiffany Killoren describes her first novel as a “beach read,” but getting it published was no day at the waterpark.

The Parkville lawyer and freelance writer spent two years writing “Six Weeks in Petrograd” and then six months trying to find an agent.

“I only queried the kind of agents or publishers who take this kind of commercial fiction,” Killoren said. “You have to have thick skin, because the rejections come at such a fast pace.”

The novel concerns a young woman who volunteers to spend six weeks on a work project in St. Petersburg, Russia, only to find herself a little out of her depth. Killoren had a similar experience there after graduating from the University of Iowa in 1996.

Bluewood Publishing of New Zealand accepted her novel in 2012 and published it last December.

Killoren will be signing copies from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday at 318 S.E. Douglas St. in Lee’s Summit, as part of the city’s Fourth Friday events.

To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to

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