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Throwback Thursday featuring Wyatt Townley from issue 291.2

Wyatt Townley discusses her poem "Striptease," first featured in issue 291.2, Spring 2006. It was a finalist for the James Hearst Poetry Prize

gigi rose gray illustration

You never know where a poem is going to lead, down the page or across the country. Since NAR published my poem, “Striptease,” three things have happened: 1) it was included in my next book, The Afterlives of Trees, 2) I became the Poet Laureate of Kansas, and 3) a New York choreographer and a Minnesota dancer, together with a McKnight grant, premiered the resulting dance, “Striptease” in Minneapolis. Here’s a link to the choreographed version by Lane Gifford — who took the poem in directions I hadn’t imagined:

Despite its charged title, “Striptease” explores themes of reduction and release, reflecting the poet’s process. Michelangelo takes away everything that isn’t the sculpture. The poet removes whatever isn’t the poem.

Dance is like that; so is yoga. Physical training is at least as much undoing as doing. As we connect mind and body, we learn to release whatever’s in the way — gritting teeth, locked jaw, crunched spine — whatever’s not essential to the motion at hand. An interior stripping.

Life is like that. Over a lifetime, we gradually let go of the unnecessary, what doesn’t work or may be working against us, all the while losing our hair and ultimately shedding our skin. Like the cicada, maybe it’s only after we abandon the shell that we can be heard.


It takes a lifetime
to shed our skin.
Take a lesson:

The snake slides out
the maple shakes off its propellers
and hair by hair we follow

like Hansel and Gretel
dropping what we can.
The cicada sings

only after leaving
its shell on the tree
just as the poem

unwinds down the page
losing its earrings,
its shoes on the stairs.

Wyatt Townley

Wyatt Townley is the Poet Laureate of Kansas (2013-2015). Her work has been read by Garrison Keillor on NPR, featured in Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry,” and published in journals including the North American Review, the Paris Review, and The Yale Review. Her books include three collections of poetry: The Breathing Field, Perfectly Normal, and The Afterlives of Trees, a Kansas Notable Book and winner of the Nelson Award.

The confluence of poetry and poetry-in-motion has shaped Wyatt’s life. Formerly a dancer, she has taught yoga for over 30 years and is the founder of Yoganetics®, a therapeutic system practiced in ten countries.  Her book on the method, Yoganetics (HarperCollins), was designated an Editor’s Choice by Yoga Journal.  Wyatt is married to poet and children’s author Roderick Townley.

Illustration by: Gigi Rose Gray is an illustrator born and raised in New York City where she received her BFA in illustration from Parsons New School for Design. She now resides in sunny Los Angeles. Her works are inspired by the grace and elegance of women, mid-century design, french renaissance interiors, the colors olive green and mustard yellow, dreams, cypress trees, Greco-Roman art, and nostalgia.