Exploring Kyla Houbolt’s Poetry: A Close Reading of ‘Surviving Death’ and Its Contemporary Resonance”


Within the vast and diverse landscape of contemporary poetry, numerous voices emerge, each with its own distinct perspective on the intricate tapestry of human existence. Among these voices, Kyla Houbolt stands as a poet whose work invites readers to explore the transitory nature of life, the complexities of memory, and the enigmatic rhythms of being. In her collection “Surviving Death,” Houbolt crafts verses that carefully select words to evoke profound emotions and provoke deep reflection.

This essay embarks on a close reading of selected poems from “Surviving Death” by Kyla Houbolt, delving into the themes, imagery, and narrative nuances that define her poetry. Through these close examinations, we will uncover the profound beauty and introspection woven into Houbolt’s verses. Moreover, we will draw comparisons between Houbolt’s work and that of more established contemporary poets, shedding light on the distinctive qualities that set her poetry apart. As we navigate the intricate fabric of Houbolt’s verses, we will encounter a poet whose emerging voice resonates powerfully in the realm of contemporary literature, leaving an indelible mark with her artistic vision and insight.

What follows is a close reading of Kyla Houbolt’s poems from “Surviving Death” that compares them to the works of more established contemporary writers to highlight the distinctive qualities of her poetry.

1. “Before She Died” by Kyla Houbolt

my mother saw
white egrets in the tree
but they were only flowers.
she knew that once
there were great beasts

Houbolt’s “Before She Died” captures the essence of life’s impermanence through a poignant memory of her mother. The poem juxtaposes the image of white egrets with the notion of flowers, symbolizing the ephemeral nature of beauty and existence. Houbolt’s concise language and vivid imagery evoke a sense of nostalgia and loss.


  • Li-Young Lee’s “The Gift”: Lee, a well-established contemporary poet, also explores themes of memory and loss. In “The Gift,” he reflects on his father’s legacy and the power of memory in preserving love across generations. Both Houbolt and Lee employ evocative imagery to convey the emotional weight of memories.

2. “It’s Late and Now” by Kyla Houbolt

I have to imagine myself dying.
I still see the young firm flesh
and walking everywhere.
I can still recall fearlessness.

In “It’s Late and Now,” Houbolt delves into the theme of aging and mortality. She juxtaposes the vigor of youth with the inevitability of growing older. The poem’s brevity underscores the fleeting nature of time and human existence, emphasizing the contrast between past vitality and present reflection.


  • Mary Oliver’s “When Death Comes”: Renowned poet Mary Oliver, in this poem, reflects on the approach of death and its impact on how we live our lives. Houbolt and Oliver share a contemplative approach to the subject of mortality. Both poets emphasize the importance of living fully in the face of inevitable death.

3. “Love Me Some Coyote” by Kyla Houbolt

Coyote is a friend of mine,
at least, he told me he was,
but how can you trust a creature
who shows up everywhere?

In “Love Me Some Coyote,” Houbolt introduces the character of Coyote, a symbol of adaptability and trickster qualities. The poem explores the elusiveness of truth and trust in a world where appearances can be deceiving. Houbolt’s use of the first-person perspective adds a personal dimension to the narrative.


  • Sherman Alexie’s “Coyote Learns a New Trick”: Sherman Alexie, a prominent contemporary writer, frequently features Coyote in his stories and poems. “Coyote Learns a New Trick” explores Coyote’s mischievous nature and adaptability. Both Houbolt and Alexie use Coyote as a multifaceted character to convey deeper meanings about life’s unpredictability.

These close readings highlight Houbolt’s ability to capture profound themes in concise and evocative language. Her poetry resonates with the human experience, inviting readers to contemplate the complexities of life, death, memory, and trust. While Houbolt may not have the same level of recognition as more established contemporary writers, her work demonstrates a unique voice and perspective that contributes to the rich tapestry of contemporary literature.

In closing, let us embrace the literary landscape as a mosaic of voices, where each poet, whether emerging or established, contributes a unique hue to the canvas of contemporary poetry. Kyla Houbolt’s “Surviving Death” stands as a testament to the enduring power of poetry to capture the nuances of life and provoke deep introspection.

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