NC Literary Hall of Fame



The Fence Lesson: Poems by Kay Bosgraaf

Kelsay Books
$17.00, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-950462070
October, 2019
Available from your local bookstore or

"Kay Bosgraaf is a poet of unstinting and nearly comprehensive noticing. She brings a painter's eye, a musician's ear, and a rare talent for lucidity. Often her business is outwardly modest, to consecrate an instant, but she imagines so precisely and she writes so well that I am always engaged, whether in the rural scenes of 'The Fence Lesson' or the between-cities landscape of 'After Six Weeks.' She is a poet of range, of places, but, also, of people. Again and again, she surprises, sometimes with wit, sometimes with seriousness. Most impressively, she never hides, and if she shows us beauty, she also writes 'of the wretched in the hateful world/ the mutilation, the wounds.' Deeply owned, completely honest, The Fence Lesson is a terrific read.
—Rodney Jones, poet

"Kay Bosgraaf's The Fence Lesson is a very satisfying book. Part of that satisfaction is in the skillful, deft ways she uses language to give the reader a clear sense of her ideas and feelings. With her choice of subjects and her willingness to address them with a hard, but warm honesty, I come away from this book with a sense of delicacy and solidness."
—Lou Lipsitz, poet and psychotherapist

"In The Fence Lesson ,Kay Bosgraaf gives us the ongoing rush of a family story from vividly rendered childhood recollections of the grandparents' farm through love and motherhood to her mother's decline into dementia, finishing up with an almost whimsical portrait of the 'old guys, grinning because they outsmarted life.' Each poem offers a clear and memorable moment."
—Penelope Schott, poet

"Kay Bosgraaf's new poetry book is mature, historical, and emotionally complex. It partakes of the dark laughter of the rugged adult who knows she/he will be cut down over and over by forces and ill-luck but refuses to give in. Many of the poems are spoken and seen through the child's grasping to understand adults. Learning how not to be crushed. How even in the face of adult failure, anger, and pain, refusing to give up. The qualities of trust in life make it easy to read."
—Kay Divant, poet, writer, artist

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Kay Bosgraaf's urge towards the narrative poem is her ability to build up dramatic tension and at the same time to empty it out as a memory. And it opens up a space in the reader's memory to skate along with Bosgraaf's. Her artistic values are visual, her poems retaining that object-hood of Dutch still life painting. We are drawn to the window to the silent scene within, but see mixed in the window's reflection our own form. Her use of stanza form (her triplets and couplets) are there to ride along on, to be lulled by a pleasant sense of order, like riding on a train. She addresses throughout the book the question: To what extent can the obseving child trust these adult presences that tower over their existence and who are capable of cruelty. And why is it that cruelty seems to be the essential force for staying alive? And how is it that those human forces are what underwrites and insures the ongoing life of humans on the earth? But here the qualities of trust in life make it easy to read. .

Kay Bosgraaf was raised in Hudsonville, Michigan, and now lives in Durham, North Carolina, with her husband Richard and dog Rose. Her publications include two books entitled Song of Serenity: Poems and The Fence Lesson: Poems plus a chapbook Blue Eyes and Homburg Hats: Poems in addition to individual poems published in numerous literary magazines and journals. She has had a fellowship from The MacDowell Colony and two from The Vermont Studio Center. After a lifetime of full-time teaching at the college level, she now writes and teaches creative writing as an adjunct professor at regional colleges and universities.

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