Katherine Hastings

Katherine Hastings grew up in the Cow Hollow neighborhood of San Francisco, a city that has deeply influenced her work.  She is the author of three collections of poems, including Shakespeare & Stein Walk Into a Bar (Spuyten Duyvil NYC, August 2016); Nighthawks (2014); and Cloud Fire (2012), and several chapbooks.  Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, anthologies, and other publications including The Book of Forms — A Handbook of Poetics, Lewis Putnam Turco, ed., University Press of New England (2012); Verde Que Te Quiero Verde: Poems after Federico Garcia Lorca; the Comstock Review; Parthenon West Review; Rattle; Beatitude Golden Anniversary; Ambush Review; Calyx; and many others.  She is the host of WordTemple on NPR affiliate KRCB FM and curator of the WordTemple Poetry Series in Sonoma County, CA.  Her Small Change Series of WordTemple Press has published beat poet David Meltzer, San Francisco poet laureate emerita devorah major, and many others, as well as the anthology What Redwoods Know — Poems from California State Parks (all proceeds benefited California State parks).  Hastings is Sonoma County poet laureate emerita (2014 — 2016) and edited the anthology Digging Our Poetic Roots — Poems from Sonoma County as her poet laureate project.  She edited Know Me Here — An Anthology of Poetry by Women, published by WordTemple Press in 2017.

Front Cover—Shakes

Shakespeare and Stein Walk into a Bar is animated by the two most rewarding and replenishing of poetic forces: dexterous formal diversity and a fierce, unflinching searching. “Where to go from here?” the book begins, lifting us through “the world we’ve left to ourselves” and singing us at last to the still point where “We, too, dissolve” with “all of it finding its way — somewhere.” Shakespeare and Stein Walk into a Bar is more than a collection of poems; it is a quest fulfilled by destination. —Malachi Black

Dear William Shakespeare, an heiress has appeared! Historians can’t trace the Bard’s descendants too far after his daughters, but a Shakespearean sonneteer has mysteriously reappeared in the form of Katherine Hastings and her wildly compelling sonnets. What eloquence! What originality! And what poems for the ages!” —Lee Slonimsky

Whether she is exploring memory or embracing loss or love, Katherine Hastings so fully inhabits these poems that the reader is allowed to surrender to her deft use of language and embark on a journey of the soul, filled with a radiance of spirit that transcends the everyday routines of life, “..last night in moonlight, long fingers/of trees signed their language/the way deaf women sing…”, and “There is nowhere to go/but here on a corner with the unblessed/supplementing Social Security,/our shadows merged on hard pavement…” Finally, these are poems that offer a luminous stillness, mysterious yes, but filled with exquisitely articulated moments that are pitch-perfect.  — Devreaux Baker

Katherine Hastings’ poems play with consciousness on many levels. Nature, literature, and human experience catch memorably within the threads of their dense and startling webs.  — Annie Finch


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If there’s such a thing as fierce Buddhism, Katherine Hastings’ Nighthawks finds it.  Here is nature in minutely observed, embroidered detail, juxtaposed with terse and stark observations keyed from Rexroth’s “holiness of the real.”  Hastings is unafraid: she writes fearlessly of subjects such as the slaughter of children at an elementary school in Connecticut, the death of a young black man in a subway station, and opens a brave and unblinking lens on a lover’s cancer.  In backdrop, though, always: the steadiness of nature flourishing, brilliant colors amid the unanswered questions. — Gerald Fleming

Rooted in what Hastings calls the “momentary forever,” these marvelous poems, so rich with detail and so full of duende, explore the paradoxes of transience.  Yes, the poet reminds us: “The alarm is set and ticking” for each least thing in the living world: “A boy made in the image of Lorca; turkey vultures…with wings like shredded violins.”  Still, the “eyes of the world” (eyes of the poet!) “are always hungry…”; so the poet must read every “tune placed in [her] beak//where the lust of one tear holds/ every note of joy, of sorrow/trembling under the stars.”  And these new poems do insist on inhabiting hard realities — a beloved’s cancer diagnosis; the public murder of an innocent young man by a police officer — but also, in “Perseid From a Park Bench,” two lovers wish on a meteor falling through the night sky, and Hastings reminds us: “We humans do this, place hope on a ball of dust passing through a comet’s tail.”  — Susan Kelly-DeWitt


How refreshing to come across a book like Katherine Hastings’ marvelous Cloud Fire, rich and verdant in formal experiment and range.  Mixing lyrics, narratives, curses, blessings, spells, and unabashed love poems, the work is hard-won and honest, generous and rigorous.  In poem after poem Katherine Hastings casts her ever-vigilant, observing eye, sharp as it is poignant.  Her deepest concern seems our perilous locale and planet: “My city whose streams are rock doves and parrots, whose bright arm is a spring board for love and suicides,” and yet “we breathe here better than anywhere, distressed.” — Gillian Conoley

Lovely … it’s your veiled history. — Lawrence Ferlinghetti

For Katherine Hastings, “The mirror is a lake of longing.”  Her poems are told us by a woman with a moon in her chest”; their surprising images embrace close observation, deeply dramatized love and losses, and have the power of crossing boundaries of spirit to reveal truths otherwise unseen.  — Daniel Hoffman, U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus

Katherine Hastings is a poet whose words embody light; she is the ambassador of luminescence to American poetry today.  It is no wonder that clouds catch on fire in this magnificent and transformative collection.  In poems like “Whittenberg”, where an atmosphere of light invades and reshapes, “Pushing off from the Wall”, where white cells of water, jewel-lined/undulate amoeba-shapes, and “Twister” clear blue prophecy is proclaimed.  In “Bird. Song. Knife. Heart.” (No one saw her glide among the lake or river/ a radiance wrapped in flame), and “Mother,” (“Light transfers from the formless/smatters across the given/world”), and so many others, Hastings truly succeeds in evoking a continent of light on radiant pages…There is no voice like hers!  I wholeheartedly recommend Cloud Fire, poems that will illumine your consciousness both while reading and long, long afterwards. — Lee Slonimsky