Keetje Kuipers - "Still Life with Nursing Bra"

Keetje Kuipers performs her poem “Still Life with Nursing Bra” (All Its Charms, BOA editions limited, 2019).

“Still Life with Nursing Bra” is the second 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.

Still Life with Nursing Bra

Fall open, unfold me. Hook and eye
undone with one hand, fingers that know
their way now in the dark. You contain
me: underwire circling my breasts in
half-bangle like the copper bracelets
lemniscating wrists of women who’ve
never worn bras, never held back
their multitudes. You of the hidden
crab-apple bruise yellowing on my
chest. You of her ecstasy, eyes rolled
back in her head, hands in her sweat-
damp hair. You: milk that rivers down my
skin, shimmering of hunger, the want
of a wet mouth. Nursing bra—black, nude,
electric orange and lace-trimmed, tucked in
the back of the drawer or hung dangling
from a doorknob—I once fumbled
with you, stale of the dentist’s lobby
cut by a thin mewling that made us all
shiver, the waiting room’s terrified
ripple as I struggled with the clasp
that kept me from spilling open. Instead,
the leaking through, a sticky flower
blooming down my chest, until I wrenched
you free, flapping and fearless, one
wing taking flight from my breast.

Keetje Kuipers

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