The Keys to the Jail continues Elizabeth Bishop’s tradition of the art of losing, but delves deeper, asking the question of who is to blame for all we’ve lost. Keetje Kuipers’s new collection calls us to reexamine the harsh words of failed love, the aging of a once-beautiful body, and our own voracious desires. Kuipers is a poet of daring leaps and unflinching observations, whose richly-textured lyrics travel from Montana’s great wildernesses to the ocean-fogged streets of San Francisco as they search out the heart that’s lost its way.
We might be unhappy for the rest
of our lives. It’s not inconceivable --
the skiff of dust on your hands, the slow
smelting of years. How would I know
if you call me darling in your sleep?
A promise is a train lying in a field
for decades: we take pictures of the weeds
that flower around it and talk about the days
when it arrived with a whistle of steam.
“Keetje Kuipers’s poems are daring, formally beautiful and driven by rich imagery and startling ideas.”—Tracy K. Smith
“Quietly ferocious, The Keys to the Jail is full of love and after-love poems that come clad with ‘bell[ies] of rusted steel.’ These poems are not afraid to feel, not afraid of desire or beauty or the inevitability of their respective undoings, not afraid ‘to eat the filter on the cigarette.’ Yet there is such generosity here in the ‘repenned’ landscape—out among the wolves and ghosts, the rodeo queens and Dairy Queens—that we are allowed to glean from hunger, a form of contentment, and still welcome the cavernous desire for more.”—Elyse Fenton
Keetje Kuipers’s debut collection, Beautiful in the Mouth, won the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. Kuipers holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA from the University of Oregon. Her poetry appears widely in such venues as American Poetry Review, Indiana Review, and Jubilat. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and Oregon Literary Arts. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Kuipers is currently an assistant professor at Auburn University.