Luminous in the Owl’s Rib by George Kalamaras


In this collection of poetry, Luminous in the Owl’s Rib, former Indiana Poet Laureate, George Kalamaras, continues his ongoing project of “seeing one in the other”—poems that explore the interface of the human and natural world. Following his Surrealist forebears, Kalamaras explores the complexity of language, with startling images and juxtapositions, as a vehicle for visionary poetics. Writing a series of poems for musicians (including some of his favorite jazz greats), along with a several elegies for poets dear to him, Kalamaras explores late-night moments of a generative solitude that leave the realms of loneliness, becoming expansive and interconnected. These poems seek to connect our human impulses to the realms of the spiritual and the discursive. In the process, the poems honor the varieties of human and animal experience—mammals, marsupials, and the insect world, even probing the intelligence and “vision” that lie at the heart of molecules. The luminosity in the owl—the profundity of the numinous—Kalamaras shows us, lies inside the owl, even within the intimate space of a rib.


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 146
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: October, 2019
  • ISBN: 978-1-948017-61-9


“What are the tones, the minor notes,” he asks, “dizzying me tonight, from a café / fifty-five years late?” That’s a question George Kalamaras elucidates time and time again throughout a dazzling collection of scars and stars, worries and wonders—tributes  to brother Surrealists like Nikos Gatsos and jazz greats like Sonny Clark, too—figures who “were meant to caress the keys // inside the soft places we show no one.” These poems form a series of long-after-midnight, everyone-else-in-the-world-is-asleep broadcasts that slip between laughter and tears like shortwave messages from faraway, incantatory and incandescent. “How many moons” can we find “in the golden yellow dead?” More than we thought. George Kalamaras sets off to discover them all. —Joseph Gastiger 


In Luminous in the Owl’s Rib, we once again encounter all the wonders of the George Kalamaras poem: breathtaking images, Surrealist parallels, the “shiver / of paradise,” and a love of the difficult world. This is a book of questions and lullabies, autopsies and elegies—as poems that owe a great debt to music pay tribute to musicians, as precise beauty is threaded through with totemic power. This is the work of a generous, saddened heart. The voice of George Kalamaras is indeed “like a scar and a particle of Brahms.” —Jennifer Militello


The Sound Behind Water

People are always asking, Which house is this?
They open a door, and my chest sprouts sparrows
They close a window as an avocado dirts to seed
They look for the outline of a tree in fog
It is barely there, behind their water
Beneath the sky
Inside the grass
Is a shape that moves like an eel
In the marsh of your eyes
I see myself struggling for sound
Like a hermit who, even after years of silence,
Can’t forget his own name
We are struck to the earth like a bar of scented soap
An egret who has grown an extra leg
I move hesitantly, feeling a larger portion of the world
Weighing less than a ballroom without snow
I float further into myself
Like a clock narrowing as it leaves midnight
Like a thin rug that has taken many years to weave


George Kalamaras, former Poet Laureate of Indiana (2014-2016), is Professor of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne (formerly Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne), where he has taught since 1990. His nine books of poetry include Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Series. He has also published seven poetry chapbooks and a book of critical theory, Reclaiming the Tacit Dimension: Symbolic Form in the Rhetoric of Silence (State University of New York Press, 1994). He is the recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1993) and two Individual Artist Fellowships from the Indiana Arts Commission (2011 and 2001). During 1994, he spent several months in India on an Indo-U.S. Advanced Research Fellowship. He lives with his wife, writer Mary Ann Cain, and their beagle, Bootsie, in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Additional information

Weight 9.4 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .375 in