Why I Left Idaho, or Too Few Margaret Ahos
Stanrod House reading, Pocatello, Idaho, 1982. Kim Stafford, Steve Puglisi, Gerald Grimmett, Rick Ardinger, Alan Minskoff, Bill Studebaker, Gino Sky, Bruce Embree, Dave Lopez, Don Powell and Harald Wyndham. Got Testosterone?
While I am from Boise, Pocatello did vie as the Idaho poetry capital in the early 80s (Alan Minskoff was a part of the Boise scene). Anyway, this picture really says it all about what was so very wrong about Idaho poetry. I say this, too, still having much admiration for Rick Ardinger, Kim Stafford, and especially William Studebaker. But this photo represents all the homogeneity, misogyny, and complacency that told me I had to get out of that state in 1981. These days, so much more is happening there, with poets like Janet Holmes, Diane Raptosh, Margaret Aho, and Robert Wrigley deepening the quality of poetry in the Gem State.
Perhaps my favorite of these poets is Margaret Aho.
Now, another disclaimer, Margaret's son Kevin is a colleague of mine at FGCU; he teaches philosophy, and he ended up here after getting his Ph.D. at the U. of South Florida. I met Margaret in 1993 when I was teaching at Idaho State (where her husband Jim is a leading expert on hate groups), at the Walrus & Carpenter bookstore run by Will Petersen: truly an oasis.
Margaret's poetry is spare, improvisation, but layered rather richly. Her first book of poetry is the brilliant Carpal Bones, followed by The Only Light We Read By, published by Limberlost Press, which is run by the forementioned Rick Ardinger. A good example of her work you can find at Verse Daily, in her poem "Exactly at Midnight." The poem is of dream logic, of a kind of post-modern masterwork and palimpsest, of a kind of mad love affair with the language, and of a kind of narrative frame that suggests a fractured and fracturing fairy tale. Wise, smart, and brilliant, and I would use Margaret's work as Exhibit A in my defense against those who whine about contemporary poetry's insularity, dullness, and witlessness.