(Note: Today’s Sunday Poem is part of Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” series and is made possible by The Poetry Foundation This one is for all of the gardeners out there!)
By describing the relocation of the moles which ravaged her yard, Washington poet Judith Kitchen presents an experience that resonates beyond the simple details, and suggests that children can learn important lessons through observation of the natural world. -Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006
Catching the Moles
First we tamp down the ridges
that criss-cross the yard
then wait for the ground
to move again.
I hold the shoe box,
you, the trowel.
When I give you the signal
you dig in behind
and flip forward.
Out he pops into daylight,
We nudge him into the box,
carry him down the hill.
Four times we’ve done it.
The children worry.
Have we let them all go
at the very same spot?
Will they find each other?
We can’t be sure ourselves,
only just beginning to learn
the fragile rules of uprooting.
About Judith Kitchen
Judith Kitchen teaches nonfiction in the Rainier Writing Workshop, the Low-Residency MFA Program at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, WA. She is the author of five books: Perennials (poetry, Anhinga Press); Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford (criticism, Oregon State Univ. Press); Only the Dance (essays, Univ. of S. Carolina); Distance and Direction (essays, Coffee House Press), and The House on Eccles Road (novel, Graywolf Press; Penguin paperback), which was awarded the S. Mariella Gable Prize in fiction. A third book of nonfiction, Half in Shade, was published by Coffee House Press in Spring 2012. In addition, she has edited or co-edited three popular collections of nonfiction (In Short, In Brief, and Short Takes, all W. W. Norton) and, with Ted Kooser, an anthology, The Poets Guide to the Birds (Anhinga Press).
Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including recent essays in Prairie Schooner, Colorado Review, Great River Review, and The Georgia Review. Her awards include two Pushcart Prizes for an essay, the Lillian Fairchild Award for her novel, the Anhinga Prize for poetry, and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. She has served as judge for the AWP Nonfiction Award, the Pushcart Prize in poetry, the Oregon Book Award, and the Bush Foundation Fellowships, among others. Kitchen is an Advisory and Contributing Editor for The Georgia Review where she is a regular reviewer of poetry.
A native upstate New Yorker, she grew up in Painted Post, a small town on the Pennsylvania border. After college in Vermont, a junior year in Edinburgh, Scotland, and some years living in both Scotland and Brazil, she returned to upstate NY where she worked as a part-time secretary, an assistant in a carnival supply business, with the New York state Poets in the Schools, and finally as an instructor at SUNY College at Brockport, where she taught courses in Creative Nonfiction, Poetry, and The Writers Craft.
For twenty years, she served as editor and publisher of the State Street Press Chapbook Series, producing a total of 76 chapbooks, two pamphlets, five full-length books, two translations, and one anthology. In 1997, she was named Writer-in-Residence at SUNY Brockport, and in 2003, she and her husband, Stan Sanvel Rubin, moved to Port Townsend, WA, where they act as co-directors of the Rainier Writing Workshop
For more information about Judith Kitchen and her writing, please visit her website.
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American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 1986 by Judith Kitchen, whose most recent book is Half in Shade, (Coffee House Press, 2012). Reprinted from Perennials, Anhinga Press, 1986, with permission of the author. Introduction copyright © 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. Note: Author biography courtesy of Judith Kitchen’s website.