“Sometimes,” Michael Kleber-Diggs writes in this winner of the Max Ritvo Poetry Prize, “everything reduces to circles and lines.”
Michael Kleber-Diggs, of St. Paul, Minn., won the 2022 Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award in Poetry for his book “Worldly Things.” This award is sponsored by the Thomas Fox Averill Kansas Studies Collection at Washburn University’s Mabee Library and the Friends of Mabee Library.
In these poems, Kleber-Diggs names delight in the same breath as a loss. Moments suffused with love—teaching his daughter how to drive; watching his grandmother bake a cake; waking beside his beloved to ponder trumpet mechanics—a couple with moments of wrenching grief—a father’s life ended by a gun; mourning children draped around their mother’s waist; Freddie Gray’s death in police custody. Even in the refuge-space of dreams, a man calls the police on his Black neighbor.
But Worldly Things refuses to “offer allegiance” to this centuries-old status quo. With uncompromising candor, Kleber-Diggs documents the many ways America systemically fails those who call it home while also calling upon our collective potential for something better. “Let’s create folklore side-by-side,” he urges, asking us to aspire to a form of nurturing defined by tenderness, to a kind of community devoted to mutual prosperity. “All of us want,” after all, “our share of light, and just enough rainfall.”
Michael Kleber-Diggs was born and raised in Kansas and now lives in St. Paul. He won the 2020 Max Ritvo Poetry Prize. His works have appeared in Poem-a-Day, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, Great River Review, Water~Stone Review, Potomac Review, Hunger Mountain, Memorious and several other journals and anthologies. Kleber-Diggs teaches poetry and creative non-fiction through the Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop.