Writers on the Bay 2023 series presents poetic pair

Poems at BBCDavid Kirby and Barbara Hamby read their poems | Photo Courtesy of the Creative Writing Department

Kaysea Suzana | Staff Writer

Gracing the podium of the Biscayne Bay bookstore were married poets Barbara Hamby and David Kirby.

Hamby and Kirby, who have been married for more than 20 years, were invited by FIU’s Creative Writing department as part of the Writer’s On the Bay event series.

Denise Duhamel, acclaimed American poet and instructor at FIU, presented the two with an introductory speech regarding their works.

“I felt like I had found my poetry brother,” Duhamel said about Kirby.

“Smart, smart, smart. Always smart was Barbara Hamby.”

Both American poets, the two are well known for their contributions to creative writing and teaching. They are currently both educators in Florida State University.

Hamby’s work ranges from her experiences growing up in Hawaii, seen through her collection “Holoholo”, as well as her first publication “Delirium” focused on the disorderly, and the bizarre. 

Kirby on the other hand is well known for his literary criticisms, and poetry focusing on the ebb and flow of the human mind, such as “Dogs Who Are Poets and Movie Stars”. 

The pair took turns on the podium, reading a poem and swapping ideas before letting the other take the stage.

One of Kirby’s selected works he chose to read, was titled “An Old Cowhand Went Riding  Out One Dark and Windy Day”, a reference to the first line of Stan Jones’ song “Ghost Riders in the Sky”.

Beginning with a short introduction on the poem’s themes and its relation to the song, Kirby read out his poem that focused on the inanity that would occur in conversations regarding a poet and a stranger at a party. 

Kirby and Hamby signing copies of their books | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

The poets charismatically bounced off each other’s readings, alluding to motifs in their work, and the role that things like luck and Elvis Presley had on their lives. 

With a poker face, Kirby continued his routine, eliciting cheers and chortles from the listeners.

Hamby added her own talking point regarding a common question she gets in her field.

“Why doesn’t poetry rhyme anymore? And I always like to answer: I love to rhyme. And I write a lot of rhyming poems,” Hamby said.

One of Hamby’s works which Duhamel mentions in her introduction, is “All-Night Lingo Tango”, a work heavy on word play and allusions to varying religions and mythologies.

Hamby sped along and read out her poem, titled “Mambo Cadillac”, focused on the exotic and sensual voices between a speaker and a possible date. 

“I read that poem for a long time and one time I was reading and I thought it was about a relationship between two people. But then suddenly I realized it was the bad girl in me talking to the good girl in me,” Hamby said humorously.

Hamby also commented on the spontaneity of the writing process.

“Sometimes you never know what you’re really writing about, which is kind of beautiful,” said Hamby.

Kirby further reflected on the nature of creativity.

“It also turned out to be having that interesting point about: you don’t know what you’re doing until you’ve done it. Sometimes it takes so long and some empty-head occasions.” Kirby said.

(Check out Hamby reading her poem, “Mambo Cadillac,” below!)

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