'Full Moon on K Street,' an anthology of poetry about D.C., is published

By Dan Zak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 7, 2010

Chicago has Carl Sandburg's fog, coming on little cat feet. Los Angeles has Bukowski's drunks, sleeves soaking up spilt booze. New York has as many poets as rats. Washington has . . . what, exactly? Its reputation in popular poetry is that of a way station for gestating genius, a quarry of one-liners chipped into monuments, the coronation spot of a poet laureate who lives elsewhere.

Quote a line from a poem that captures the capital as a place to live.


Couldn't, until now.

"Full Moon on K Street" -- the first anthology of modern poetry to be wholly for, about and by current and former Washington residents -- teems with poets who've distilled the region's lifeblood into verse over the past 50 years. The piece on Page 4 is by Eugene J. McCarthy, who managed to find poetry in one of the region's least poetic landmarks:

Detached by Saarinen or God

from all coordinates,

it sits like a gull upon water

defying the subtle Archimedean rule.

It's a chilly rhapsody on Dulles International Airport, written by the late senator from Minnesota. McCarthy's four stanzas are the first steps on a 101-poem walking tour of Washington in verse form, guided by a woman who lives in a blond-brick rowhouse on a serene side street in Petworth.

Kim Roberts makes the 10-foot commute from her bedroom to her office and, enclosed by walls painted bubble-gum pink and thatched with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, she edits the Beltway Poetry Quarterly, an online journal she created a decade ago to plumb the city's rich literary history and showcase its established and emerging poets.

She has put together "Full Moon on K Street," Beltway's first venture onto the printed page, a celebration of its 10th anniversary, and an emblem of Roberts's passion for her city -- borne out by locals like Essex Hemphill, the cultural activist who was raised in Southeast, died in 1995 from complications of AIDS and calls out from the grave on Page 72:

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