Keetje Kuipers reads "Justice, Come Down" by Minnie Bruce Pratt

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Keetje Kuipers reads "Justice, Come Down" by Minnie Bruce Pratt

Minnie Bruce Pratt’s poem “Justice, Come Down,” performed by Keetje Kuipers.

“Justice, Come Down” is the eighth film in Above Strands of Earth: Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation at Tippet Rise, a project created in partnership with Tippet Rise’s sister organization, the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation, and produced in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets.

Directed by Irish photographer and filmmaker Matthew Thompson, the films were captured in locations on the land at Tippet Rise and throughout the art center’s artistic spaces.

Justice, Come Down

A huge sound waits, bound in the ice,
in the icicle roots, in the buds of snow
on fir branches, in the falling silence
of snow, glittering in the sun, brilliant
as a swarm of gnats, nothing but hovering
wings at midday. With the sun comes noise.
Tongues of ice break free, fall, shatter,
splinter, speak. If I could write the words.

Simple, like turning a page, to say Write
what happened
, but this means a return
to the cold place where I am being punished.
Alone to the stony circle where I am frozen,
the empty space, children, mother, father gone,
lover gone away. There grief still sits
and waits, grim, numb, keeping company with
anger. I can smell my anger like sulfur-
struck matches. I wanted what had happened
to be a wall to burn, a window to smash.
At my fist the pieces would sparkle and fall.
All would be changed. I would not be alone.

Instead I have told my story over and over
at parties, on the edge of meetings, my life
clenched in my fist, my eyes brittle as glass.

Ashamed, people turned their faces away
from the woman ranting, asking: Justice,
stretch out your hand. Come down, glittering,
from where you have hidden yourself away.

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Photo by Matthew Thompson

Keetje Kuipers

Poet and educator Keetje Kuipers was born in Pullman, Washington, the daughter of a fishing guide and a sociologist. She earned her BA at Swarthmore College and her MFA at the University of Oregon. During her time as a student, her major poetic influences included Rainer Maria Rilke, Larry Levis, and Kimiko Hahn. Before pursuing a career as a poet, she worked at a range of jobs, from baker to actress to publishing assistant.

Kuipers’ debut poetry collection, Beautiful in the Mouth (BOA Editions, 2010), was chosen by Thomas Lux as the winner of the A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize and named one of the top ten debut poetry books of 2010 by Poets & Writers. Her second book, The Keys to the Jail (BOA, 2014), was selected by The Rumpus as a book club selection. All Its Charms (BOA, 2019), her latest collection, was a finalist for the Washington State Book Award and includes award-winning poems published in both The Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies.

Kuipers’ poetry often engages with the distinctive local ecosystems in the many places she has lived, bringing nature into dialogue with the domestic. As she tells 32 Poems, “While I am a writer and a mother no matter where I live, those roles are uniquely limited by the landscape where they take place. Any writing that I do wishes to investigate that transformation of identity.” Her writing, including short stories and essays as well as poetry, has appeared in more than one hundred journals and magazines, including the New York Times Magazine, Narrative, Tin House, VQR, American Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Orion, Kenyon Review, and The Believer. Her poetry has been featured as part of the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series and read on NPR’s Writer’s Almanac.

A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, Kuipers has also been the Katharine Bakeless Nason Fellow in Poetry at Bread Loaf, the Emerging Writer Lecturer at Gettysburg College, and the recipient of fellowships from the Vermont Studio Center, the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and Oregon Literary Arts, Lucas Artist Residency at Montalvo Arts Center, the Jentel Artist Residency Foundation, the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, and PEN Northwest’s Margery Davis Boyden Wilderness Writing Residency, among others. She has taught at universities across the country, including as Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Montana and as Associate Professor at Auburn University, where she was Editor of Southern Humanities Review and founded the Auburn Witness Poetry Prize.

In 2020, Kuipers became Editor-In-Chief of Poetry Northwest. Her accomplishments there include establishing the James Welch Prize for Indigenous Poets and the magazine’s annual Anti-Racism Report. She serves on advisory board for the dual-language writers’ conference Under the Volcano, located in Tepoztlán, Mexico, and on the board of the National Book Critics Circle as Deputy VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In 2022, she was one of the judges of the National Book Award in poetry. Kuipers lives with her wife and children in Missoula, Montana, where she is at work on a fourth book of poems, a memoir, and a novel.

Discover more on Keetje Kuipers

Text: Two poems by Kuipers at Four Way Review

Audio: Kuipers’ poem “At Forty, the Mountains Are More Green” featured on The Slowdown

Video: Kuipers appears on the series Poets of Montana

Photo by Leslie Feinberg

Minnie Bruce Pratt

Minnie Bruce Pratt was born on September 12, 1946, in Selma, Alabama, and raised in nearby Centreville. She attended Bibb County High School, then the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she received a B.A. and made Phi Beta Kappa. She earned her Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Pratt married a man and had two sons before falling in love with a woman and discovering herself as a lesbian. Due to the era’s criminalization of queerness, the courts deprived her of all custody of her children during the divorce, a tragedy she explored in her groundbreaking book Crime Against Nature. In the late 70s, Pratt helped found WomonWrites, a Southeastern lesbian writers conference, and joined the editorial collective of Southern feminist journal Feminary.

Pratt is the author of eight books of poetry, from 1981’s The Sound of One Fork through 2021’s Magnified. Her most notable works include Crime Against Nature, chosen as the Lamont Poetry Selection by the Academy of American Poets and for an American Library Association Gay and Lesbian Book Award in Literature; Walking Back Up Depot Street, selected by ForeWord as Best Lesbian/Gay Book of the Year; The Dirt She Ate, which received the Lambda Literary Award for Poetry; and Inside the Money Machine, awarded the Publishing Triangle’s Audre Lorde Award for Lesbian Poetry. She is also the author of the essay collection Rebellion and the prose story collection S/HE, as well as a co-author of Yours in Struggle: Three Feminist Perspectives on Anti-Semitism and Racism, selected by the Publishing Triangle in 2004 as one of the 100 Best Lesbian and Gay Nonfiction Books of all time. Her work has been published in myriad journals and anthologies.

Pratt’s writing, which is deeply engaged with issues of social justice spanning race, class, gender, and sexuality, has often drawn from her lifelong work as an activist. Her organizing activities began in the women’s liberation movement of the 70s and have continued with intersectional work on women’s and LGTBQ issues and anti-racist and anti-imperialist initiatives. Pratt co-edited the 2008 anthology Feminism and War: Confronting U.S. Imperialism, and her interview on life as an activist and writer is included in the 2018 anthology Feminist Freedom Warriors from Haymarket Press. She is a managing editor of communist newspaper Workers World/Mundo Obrero and a member of the National Writers Union. Pratt also works with the International Action Center and its Women’s Fightback Network.

The recipient with Chrystos and Audre Lorde of a Lillian Hellman-Dashiell Hammett Award from the Fund for Free Expression, Pratt taught as an adjunct for 45 years, occasionally experiencing unemployment. Her final academic role was as Professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Writing & Rhetoric at Syracuse University, where she helped to develop the LGBT Studies program. Pratt was partnered with, then married to, writer, historian, and trans lesbian activist Leslie Feinberg until Feinberg’s death in 2014. Several of Pratt’s books have drawn inspiration from her loving, mutually inspiring relationship with Feinberg. Pratt’s papers are held by Duke University. She currently divides her residence between her childhood home in Centreville, Alabama, and her current home in Syracuse, New York.