Poet Julie Kane—the great-grandchild of eight Irish immigrants—was born in Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up in Massachusetts, upstate New York, and New Jersey, and graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. in English. One of Anne Sexton’s graduate poetry students at Boston University at the time of Sexton’s suicide, Kane moved to Louisiana after marrying a native, then stayed after the marriage ended. She lived in Baton Rouge for two years, working in the federal “War on Poverty”; then in New Orleans for seventeen years, working as a technical writer and editor; then in St. Gabriel for four years, completing a doctorate in English with a dissertation on the villanelle at Louisiana State University. Since 1999 she has lived in Natchitoches, where she is Professor of English Emeritus at Northwestern State University and winner of the 2014 Excellence in Teaching Award. She was the 2011-2013 Louisiana Poet Laureate. In 2018 she joined the poetry faculty of the Western State Colorado University low-residency MFA program.
POETRY BOOKS AND AWARDS
Kane published two poetry chapbooks in England and a first book of poems with a New Orleans regional press, but it was not until the publication of Rhythm & Booze in 2003 that her work came to national attention. Rhythm & Booze was Maxine Kumin’s selection for the National Poetry Series and a finalist for the 2005 Poets’ Prize. Kane’s third poetry collection, Jazz Funeral (Story Line Press, 2009), won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize, judged by David Mason. Paper Bullets, a collection of humorous poems, came out in 2014 from White Violet Press. Her fifth collection is Mothers of Ireland (LSU Press, 2020). Other awards for her poetry include Best American Poetry 2016 selection, a Fulbright Scholarship, an Academy of American Poets Prize, the George Bennett Fellowship in Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy, two New Orleans Writer-in-Residence terms at Tulane University, a Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Poetry Award, the Open Poetry International Sonnet Prize, and first prize in the Mademoiselle Magazine College Poetry Competition.
Like Everette Maddox, Grace Bauer, and Yusef Komunyakaa, among others, Kane was one of the poets associated with the Maple Leaf Bar literary scene in New Orleans in the late 1970s and 1980s. She is also associated with the New Formalist Movement in contemporary poetry, although she prefers Barbara Crooker’s term “semi-formalist.” Her poems often take up themes of the breakdown of modern relationships or the intersection of identity and place, with the cold, unforgiving North of her Irish Catholic girlhood and the warm, sensual South of her adult years figuring as the two poles of fate vs. free will, inescapable tragedy vs. redemption through an act of grace.
Kane is also a nonfiction writer, editor, translator, and scholar. The Vietnam memoir that she co-authored with Kiem Do, Counterpart: A Vietnamese Naval Officer’s War (Naval Institute Press, 1998), became a History Book Club featured alternate. An e-book version is in the works. The book (and an earlier article that Kane published in Vietnam Magazine in 1995) revealed how Captain Kiem of the Vietnamese Navy and Richard Armitage of the U.S. planned and carried out the evacuation of 35 oceangoing naval ships, crammed with an estimated 28,000 refugees, as the North Vietnamese Army was closing in on Saigon. By comparison, the much-publicized helicopter evacuation atop the U.S. Embassy in Saigon rescued about 5,000 Vietnamese. The difference was that U.S. officials denied involvement in the naval evacuation, feigning surprise at the “discovery” of the fleet in the South China Sea—and thus the story remained untold for two decades. Rory Kennedy's Oscar-finalist documentary film Last Days in Vietnam (featuring Kiem Do) retold this story for the big screen.
Umpteen Ways of Looking at a Possum: Critical and Creative Responses to Everette Maddox (Xavier Review Press, 2006), an anthology that Kane co-edited with Grace Bauer, was one of three finalists for the 2007 Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA) Book Award in Poetry. She also edited the post-1900 poetry selections for the Longman anthology of Southern literature, Voices of the American South (Pearson, 2005). New from Lost Horse Press is Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (2017), co-edited with Grace Bauer. Kane has published poetry translations from the French of Victor Hugo and co-translations from the Lithuanian of Tautvyda Marcinkevičiūtė, and she wrote the historical introductions to the anthologies Contemporary Lithuanian Poetry: A Baltic Anthology (UNO Press, 2013) and Villanelles (Everyman’s Library, 2012). In Fall 2018, Lost Horse Press will publish Terribly in Love, a collection of English-language translations of Marcinkevičiūtė's poems co-edited by Kane and H. L. Hix. Kane is also a contributing editor for Light: A Journal of Light Verse Since 1992.
Her essays on poetry and literature appear in Twentieth Century Literature, Literature Film Quarterly, Modern Language Quarterly, Journal of Consciousness Studies, PsyArt, Mezzo Cammin, Per Contra, Dictionary of Literary Biography, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Southern Writers: A New Biographical Dictionary, The Facts on File Companion to Twentieth-Century British Poetry, Cambridge Encyclopedia of the Language Sciences, and other journals and publications. Her research on the villanelle’s history led to her discovery that its form was not fixed until the 19th century—not the 16th or even earlier, as was then claimed in all reference books on the subject. And at a time when the brain’s left hemisphere was believed to be the sole “seat of language,” Kane was the first researcher to put forth the hypothesis that “poetic” language was dependent upon right-hemispheric functioning. She was also the first person to write a scholarly essay on Tim Gautreaux, who has since become canonical among Southern fiction writers.
POETRY AND MUSIC
Kane has collaborated with several contemporary musical composers. "Cities of Light," with music by Kenneth Olson, was premiered by the Natchitoches/NSU Symphony in 2014, featuring soprano Donna Lee. In 2013 her one-act opera "Starship Paradise," with music by Dale Trumbore, was produced by Center City Opera Theater of Philadelphia. The American Boychoir performed Libby Larsen’s setting of Kane’s poem “Reasons for Loving the Harmonica” on their CD Fast Cats and Mysterious Cows—Songs from America (Virgin Classics, 1999). The score was published by Oxford University Press. Mezzo-soprano Susanne Mentzer’s recording of the Kane/Larsen song “Blond Men” can be found on the CD The Eternal Feminine (Koch International, 2001). Dale Trumbore’s setting of Kane’s poem “The Mermaid Story” is sung by soprano Gillian Hollis on the CD Snow White Turns Sixty (Dissonant/Gorgeous Productions, 2011), and Trumbore’s versions of Kane’s “House Made Out of Mud” and “Sunbeam Blues” as well as “The Mermaid Story” appear on Hollis and Trumbore: Live in Louisiana (Dissonant/Gorgeous, 2013).