Joanne Kyger

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Joanne Kyger, photo by Gloria Graham during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2004

Joanne Kyger (November 19, 1934 – March 22, 2017) was an American poet. Her poetry was influenced by her practice of Zen Buddhism and her ties to the poets of Black Mountain, the San Francisco Renaissance, and the Beat generation.


Kyger was born in Vallejo, California in 1934. She studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara,[1] before moving to San Francisco, in 1957,[1] and becoming involved with the poetry scene around Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan and living in the East West House, where she studied Zen Buddhism.

In 1960 she joined Gary Snyder (whom she had met in San Francisco in 1958) in Japan. They were married on February 28, immediately after her arrival. She later travelled to India with Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky, where she met with the Dalai Lama.[2] She returned to the United States in 1964[3] and her first book, The Tapestry and the Web was published the next year.

In 1965, she married Jack Boyce. They separated in the early seventies.[4] In 2015 she married Donald Guravich, the Canadian-American writer, artist, and naturalist who had been her partner and companion since the late seventies.

Kyger published more than twenty books of poetry and prose, including Going On: Selected Poems, 1958–1980, (1983);[5] and, Just Space: poems, 1979-1989 (1991). She lived in Bolinas from 1968 until her death in 2017. In Bolinas, she edited the local newspaper. She also taught occasionally at Mills College, the New College of California, and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics of Naropa University, in Boulder, Colorado.[1]

In 2000, her 1981 collection of autobiographical writings was republished as Strange Big Moon: Japan and India Journals, 1960-1964, which Anne Waldman has called "one of the finest books ever in the genre of 'journal writing'".

More recent poetry collections include God Never Dies (Blue Press), The Distressed Look (Coyote Books), Again (La Alameda Press), and As Ever: Selected Poems published by Penguin Books. About Now: Collected Poems appeared from National Poetry Foundation in 2007. It won the 2008 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award for Poetry. Her final book of poems, On Time: Poems 2005-2014, appeared from City Lights in 2015.

Her artist statement, from 2005, for the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in New York City, reads: "The shape of the day, the words of the moment, what's happening around me in the world of interior and exterior space—these are my writing concerns. Living in a semi-rural environment the cast of characters in my poems are often the quail, deer, raccoons, coyote bush, oaks, the ocean, the weather, and a few treasured friends. All are equally valid in the environment of place. Some talk more than others. My attention to writing is a daily practice, which then builds an accumulative narrative of chronology. Which ends up as the story of one's life. An historical sense of 'self,' breathing and experiencing what is common to every human—the local, the ordinary, the non-motivated sense of just 'being.' One is also aware of the accumulations of lineage of all those writing persons who have come before and to whom one owes the inheritance of this written moment."[6]

In 2006 she was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.

Kyger died on March 22, 2017 at her home in Bolinas, California from lung cancer, aged 82, in the company of her husband, Donald Guravich.[7] Kyger had been working on a new book, “There You Are: Interviews, Journals, and Ephemera." It will be published in September, 2017 by Wave Books.


  • The Tapestry and the Web (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1965)
  • Joanne (Bolinas: Angel Hair, 1970)
  • Places To Go (Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1970). Illustrations by Jack Boyce
  • Desecheo Notebook (Berkeley: Arif Press, 1971)
  • Trip Out and Fall Back (Berkeley: Arif Press, 1974). Illustrations by Gordon Baldwin
  • Trucks: Tracks (Bolinas: MesaPress. 1974). With Franco Beltrametti; illustrations by Piero Resta
  • All This Every Day (Bolinas: Big Sky, 1975) ISBN 9780929844046
  • Lettre de Paris (Berkeley: Poltroon Press, 1977). With Larry Fagin
  • The Wonderful Focus of You (Calais: Z Press, 1980). ISBN 9780915990221
  • Mexico Blondé (Bolinas: Evergreen, 1981). Illustrations by Donald Guravich
  • The Japan and India Journals 1960–1964 (Bolinas: Tombouctou, 1981). Cover illustration by Ken Botto. ISBN 9780939180011. Reissued as Strange Big Moon: The Japan and India Journals, 1960–1964 (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2000). ISBN 9781556433375
  • Up My Coast (Point Reyes Station: Floating Island Publications, 1981). Illustrations by Inez Storer. ISBN 9780912449050
  • Going On: Selected Poems, 1958–1980 (New York: Dutton, 1983). ISBN 9780525241713 (hardcover); ISBN 9780525480556 (paperback)
  • The Dharma Committee (Bolinas: Smithereens Press, 1986). Cover illustration by Donald Guravich
  • Man & Women (Berkeley: Two Windows Press, 1987). With Michael Rothenberg; illustrations by Nancy Davis
  • Phenomenological (Canton: Grove Publications for Institute of Further Studies Curriculum of the Soul Series, 1989). Illustrations by Donald Guravich. ISBN 9780933237896
  • Just Space: Poems 1979–1989 (Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1991). Illustrations by Arthur Okamura. ISBN 9780876858356
  • Some Sketches from the Life of Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (Boulder: Rodent Press and Erudite Fangs, 1996). ISBN 9781887289221
  • Pátzcuaro : December 17, 1997–January 26, 1998 (Bolinas: Blue Millennium Press, 1999). ISBN 9780963146236
  • Some Life (Sausalito: Post-Apollo Press, 2000). ISBN 9780942996401
  • Again: Poems 1989–2000 (Albuquerque: La Alameda Press, 2001). ISBN 9781888809251
  • As Ever: Selected Poems (New York: Penguin Poets, 2002). ISBN 9780142001127
  • Ten Shines (N.p.: Nijinsky Suicide Health Club, 2002). Cover illustration by Nemi Frost
  • The Distressed Look (Brunswick: Coyote Books, 2004)
  • God Never Dies (Santa Cruz: Blue Press, 2004)
  • Detektivgeschichten der Leidenschaft (Berlin: Stadtlichter Presse, 2005). ISBN 9783936271270
  • About Now: Collected Poems (Orono: National Poetry Foundation, 2007). ISBN 978-0943373720 (hardcover); ISBN 9780943373713 (paperback)
  • Not Veracruz (New York: Libellum, 2007). ISBN 9780975299333
  • Lo & Behold: Household and Threshold on California’s North Coast (Taos: Voices from the American Land, 2009). Illustrations by Donald Guravich
  • 2012 (Santa Cruz: Blue Press, 2013)
  • On Time: Poems 2005–2014 (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2015). ISBN 9780872866805
  • Amsterdam Souvenirs (Santa Cruz: Blue Press, 2016). With Bill Berkson


  1. ^ a b c "Big Bridge #4 Chapbook Poet: Joanne Kyger". Retrieved 2008-07-23. 
  2. ^ The Beat Book edited by Anne Waldman, pg. 252
  3. ^ Kyger 2000, pg. 280
  4. ^ "Crooked Cucumber-Joanne Kyger interview". Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  5. ^ a winner in the National Poetry Series
  6. ^ ""Joanne Kyger"". Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Retrieved March 29, 2017. 
  7. ^ John McMurtie (March 23, 2017). "Joanne Kyger, trailblazing Beat poet, dies at 82". San Francisco Gate. Retrieved March 25, 2017. 

See also[edit]


  • Stirling, Isabel. "Zen Pioneer: The Life & Works of Ruth Fuller Sasaki" (2006) Shoemaker & Hoard. ISBN 978-1-59376-110-3

External links[edit]