Society & Culture

The Georgia Review hosts award-winning poet Keith Ratzlaff

The Georgia Review hosts award-winning poet Keith Ratzlaff

Athens, Ga. – The award-winning poet Keith Ratzlaff will read from his work on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at 7 p.m. at Cine on Hancock Street in Athens. His appearance is sponsored by The Georgia Review, the University of Georgia’s internationally known quarterly journal of arts and letters, and is open to the public free of charge.

Ratzlaff won the 1996 Anhinga Prize for Poetry for Man under a Pear Tree. His other books include Across The Known World (Loess Hills Press, 1997) and two more volumes from Anhinga Press: Dubious Angels: Poems after Paul Klee (2005), based on the artist’s late drawings and paintings; and Then, a Thousand Crows (2009). Copies of Ratzlaff’s works will be available at the reading, courtesy of Judy Long’s Byhalia Books.

Of the generously illustrated Dubious Angels, Georgia Review editor Stephen Corey wrote, “Keith Ratzlaff’s long-established and distinctive voice—gentle, playful, yet snap-your-head-back incisive and moving—is both present in and altered by his deep confrontation with Paul Klee’s complex simple renderings of offbeat angels. To have these poems side by side with the artworks is a visceral pleasure and a boon to both artists.”

Ratzlaff’s poems and reviews have appeared in Poetry Northwest, which gave him its Theodore Roethke Award, and in many other journals, including The Georgia Review, McSweeney’s, New England Review,and North American Review. Also, his poems and essays have been included in such anthologies as The Best American Poetry 2009; The Pushcart Prize XXXI (2007); A Cappella:Mennonite Voices in Poetry (2003), and In the Middle of the Middle West:Literary Nonfiction from the Heartland (2003).

Ratzlaff is professor of English at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

Excerpts from “Hammock Knot” by Keith Ratzlaff, originally published in The Georgia Review (Spring 2009):

I went at it first with my teeth
the way a squirrel would,
the second time with two sets of pliers
the way a mechanic would, and now
I’m thinking about the knife
as a samurai or chef would—
or Alexander the Great—
the way a field hand would
walking beans, or a man
with a machete in a canebrake,
or a surgeon, a hunter
gutting a deer, a farmer with twine
gone haywire in the baler . . .

. . . Who could do anything
but gnaw at the ropes—
what from the kitchen window
must have looked like a kiss,
a hard one with the passion
of ropes coming together,
my lips mashed against my teeth?
Who could deny it was a kiss
when the knot was the last thing,
the only thing I own, holding on?