Circulation by Ken Autrey


Beginning with its opening poem, “The Invention of Time,” Ken Autrey’s collection shows an attentiveness to the power of the past along with its riches and sorrows. The poems in Circulation address the writer’s upbringing, the influence of his parents, and in turn his aging, with accompanying bafflements and fulfillments. The poems often range far away from the domestic front but just as often reveal the natural marvels of his own backyard. Some of them address the challenge of employing words to convey the depths of love and attachment that sustain us. Whether the topic is skating on a frozen pond, feeding piranhas in a zoo, his daughter’s preparation for her wedding, or a visit to a junkyard with his father, events here unfold vividly, sometimes with an element of mystery, always with a sense of wonder.

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  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 114
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: December  2023
  • ISBN  978-1-953252-95-1


“Ken Autrey’s far-reaching life equals the satisfying depth of his poems. There’s a wide world in these pages, and a thoughtful, humble vision. Autrey writes with glorious precision and grace.” —Naomi Shihab Nye

“To write about one’s parents is to risk sentimentality, but Ken Autrey’s poems are too taut for such a concern. They intertwine memories—personal, imagined, read about—and braid them into strong ropes of vibrant storytelling.” —Keetje Kuipers

“These elegies conclude with remarkable subtlety, paying tribute to the life they’re about by representing it truly. They include the routine along with the revelatory, and tender details as well as bigger ideas about the limits of a poet’s knowledge. —Rose McLarney


The Explosion of the Kopper Kettle

The Kopper Kettle was the closest
you could get to fast food in our town.
The burgers, 12 cents apiece,
started as thin squares separated
with wax paper. Red-headed Sally
would peel one off and drop it
onto the grill where it puckered
and cooked in two minutes.
She served it on a square bun
with a dollop of shredded onion.
The Kopper Kettle exploded
early one Sunday morning
due to a leaky gas line
that somehow caught a spark.
The explosion blew out
church windows a block away
but miraculously came
too early for the Methodist crowd,
and not a soul was injured.
The eatery was a total loss.
Despite our prayers, it was razed
and replaced by an insurance office.
People still talk about those delicacies,
how you could eat four or five
with no problem and then come back
for more the next day. Those few
who witnessed the big bang tell how
little squares of beef, thawed
and sizzled by the blast, came down
like manna all over town.


Ken Autrey lives in Auburn, Alabama, where he helps coordinate the Third Thursday Poetry Series. He earned degrees from Davidson College, Auburn University, and the University of South Carolina. He is an Emeritus Professor of English at Francis Marion University in South Carolina, where he taught poetry, creative nonfiction, and advanced composition. Previously, he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana and taught at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. He spent one year as a visiting professor at Hiroshima University in Japan. Autrey’s work has appeared in Chattahoochee Review, Cimarron Review, Poetry Northwest, Southern Poetry Review, Texas Review and many other journals. He has published four chapbooks: Pilgrims (Main Street Rag), Rope Lesson (Longleaf Press), The Wake of the Year (Solomon and George Press), and Penelope in Repose (Evening Street Press). He is married to Janne Debes. They have two daughters and six grandchildren.

Additional information

Weight 7.3 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in