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English professor has poetry critiqued in new anthology


October 31, 2011

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KANSAS CITY, Mo - - English professor Stanley E. Banks, who has spent much of his time critiquing the works of students the past 14 years at Avila University, recently had some of his own work critiqued by a renowned author and poet in an anthology published this year by The Backwaters Press.

In the anthology, entitled Natural Theologies: Essays About Literature of the New Middle West, Banks' poetry was featured and examined by Denise Low, a poet, prose writer, editor, professor and former Kansas Poet Laureate. Several of Banks' poems were solidly researched and critiqued by Low in a chapter of her book, "Hard Histories in the Heartland."

"As an artist, it is always an honor to have major writers like Denise Low comment on my writing," Banks said.

Low focuses much of her commentary on Banks' volume of poetry, Blue Beat Syncopation, Selected Poems 1977-2002, which "highlights the best of the poet's writings," she said. Low compliments Banks on his ability to interweave portraits and commentary, including references to music and musicians of several different eras, to draw an intricate and exciting portrait of his hometown of Kansas City, Mo. In his title poem, "Blue Beat Syncopation," for instance, Banks references musicians from Nat King Cole to Billie Holliday to rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.

The syncopation of life is
the rhythm of time and space
like the wayward beat of a heart –
not red,
not Black,
not White,
just Blues.

"Most of his poems are brief, yet they accumulate and comment upon each other to compose an archive of interrelated artifacts," Low writes. "Kansas City is the hub of Banks' work, with spokes connecting to music, economics, family, politics and church."

Of "Blue Beat Syncopation," Low writes, "The poem urges readers to experience the poem – and life – fully, with the heart. And he opens the world of jazz and blues to everyone, within or outside of the culture."

Low, Kansas Poet Laureate from 2007-2009, and who has been writing, reviewing, editing and publishing literary and scholarly articles for 30 years, also critiqued Banks' poems about the infamous Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings and the controversy surrounding Anita Hill, as well as poems written to and about his beloved grandmother.



Avila University is a private, co-educational, values-based liberal arts institution founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, offering undergraduate, graduate, and adult degree programs. Avila University is located at 119th and Wornall Rd in southwest suburban Kansas City, Mo.