Denise Low, Kansas Poet Laureate 2007-2009, is award-winning author of 25 books of poetry and prose. She does individual consulting and editing, as well as professional workshops. Low is co-publisher of Mammoth Publications, an independent small literary press specializing in Indigenous and Mid-Plains poetry and prose. Her poetry blog has over 400 entries, and she reviews poetry for the Kansas City Star and other venues. She teaches in the Baker University School of Professional and Graduate Studies.

Shadow Light

“The natural elements are honored and reclaimed in all their vital glory in Denise Low’s SHADOW LIGHT. Water, land, wind, and language rise up and dazzle. Low splinters syntax and line to signal presence, absence, spirit, and light. These are also elegiac poems for a father, sister, and grandparents, and gloss the history and resilience of the Lenape, Cherokee, Cheyenne, and Kiowa people. Low translates nature into human song and back again. This is a riveting and urgent collection by an accomplished poet, who courts a hummingbird so that we may witness it ‘bullet dive’ and open a portal into another world.”—Hadara Bar-Nadav

“Denise Low’s SHADOW LIGHT extends her poetics to the realm of natural magic: Lyric embedded with Story. History embedded with Myth. English challenged with Native languages. Imagery enriched with Sound. Pop Culture meshed with ritual Culture. The built Environment genuflecting to the natural Environment. SHADOW LIGHT is masterful poetry by an accomplished poet; this is poetry I wish I had written myself.”—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish

“Denise Low’s SHADOW LIGHT deals with sight, appearances, and apparitions. Shades slide through layers of history, layers of earth, sidewise in a single line, ‘peripheral twilight / black-and-white lexicon / flicker flit freeze.’ Low conveys liminal perceptions by leaving enough unsaid. In these painterly poems, physical features emanate tones and patterns. SHADOW LIGHT is brilliant—don’t miss it.”—Joseph Harrington

“SHADOW LIGHT is a sweep of polarities—life / death, past / present, upheaval / peace. This spot-on writing casts variegated light on our world—flycatchers, curlew, little people, opossum—and other travelers of day and night.”—Diane Glancy


Imagined and real worlds intersect as lyric poet Denise Low dances between mortals and the dead, humans and animals, her European and Indigenous heritages. Real pandemics and wildfires set the stage as she illumines connections between the rational and intuitive. This former Poet Laureate of Kansas mourns the lost buffalo herds and celebrates the irresistible and beautiful material world of art, from Renaissance paintings to recent works by Nick Cave, Julie Buffalohead, and Peter Max. History is a living entity in the works: English lords court on teacups; a spirit woman walks Cimarron Breaks. Two hands and vestigial limbs—including wings—are tools for understanding the dualities of existence. Low’s rich work sings a healing song, knitting opposites together into a whole.

Denise Low writes places, events, frustrations, and joys that are felt in nail bed and hair root. “Pray to the gods of gravity to untangle chaos”. I don’t know for certain where the keratin of human meets the keratin of dark feathers, but it may be that in the smoke of wildfires and pandemic the stubborn shapeshift just enough and know each other more clearly. Denise is a writer I come back to again and again. Read Wing and you may understand why.

—K Shuck, 7th Poet Laureate of San Francisco

Denise Low makes poems of striking verticality. There are fault lines and scored buffalo bones beneath them, sand crab holes bubbling at their toes. They breathe wildfire smoke and are touched from above by a buzzard’s shadow. When they sleep, they go to the stars for instruction. Go to Wing for instruction; every poem in it is a core sample of our humanity.

—Eric McHenry, Kansas Poet Laureate emeritus