Honoring Kathleen Fraser (1935 – 2019)
You can tear up your lecture notes now, erase every phone number
under my name and go shopping in someone else’s suitcase.
I’ve changed my address again.
Change of Address, Kayak Books, 1966
Poets House is saddened by the loss of poet Kathleen Fraser, who passed away on February 5, 2019. Poets House had a long relationship with Kathleen, who was once a student of Stanley Kunitz, our co-founder, during her early days as a young poet in New York City. She returned later in her career as a leading voice of avant-garde poetics to teach, present programs, and read her work. She shared her wealth of knowledge as the author of numerous volumes of poetry, founder of the American Poetry Archives and director of its Poetry Center, professor of creative writing at San Francisco State University, and founding editor of HOW(ever), a germinal journal of experimental feminist poetics published in the 1980s and early 90s.
At Poets House, she encouraged students to write “from a place of instability, to question their pursuit of tradition and authority,” as noted by former Artistic Director Stephen Motika. This invitation to take risks, in the context of supportive community, was deeply entwined with her own writing practice and exploratory poetry, as well as her championing of marginalized female modernists like Mina Loy and Dorothy Richardson. Susan Gevirtz aptly describes Fraser’s “generosity and openness to the unexpected” as “dedicated ethical approaches to life, poetics and other poets, especially women.”
A few years ago when we started planning our project of digitizing rare chapbooks from our collection that represented important voices of the Mimeo Revolution, we knew we wanted to begin the series with Kathleen Fraser’s 1966 Change of Address, her very first collection. This first volume predates her radical innovations with fragmentation and hybrid form but flags her restless inquiry into and observation of liminal experience: “a thumb print / in the dust, now / and then, / small clues / to sustain the fact of us” (“Glass”).
We welcome you to spend time with Change of Address and listen to Kathleen reading poems from the collection. We are grateful to have this book in our library and to be able to share it with you.