Monday, October 26, 2015

Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A with the University Press of Kentucky

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell

You write epitaphs for a number of your neighbors in Next Door to the Dead. If they (or one of them) could write an epitaph for you, what do you think it would be?
Now she knows.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from the University Press of Kentucky

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell

How does Next Door to the Dead connect to your previous collection, Seed across Snow, which also dealt with themes of loss and mortality? How does it differ?
I have to admit that unlike many of today’s writers who are taking on more global subjects, I seem to be completely obsessed with a mere square mile around my home. I tease and defend myself by purporting to be “Writing Local,” an idea I’ve stolen from the “Eat Local” movement. In that vein, the poems in Seed across Snow address a number of tragedies that occurred around our home, which local lore says, unbeknownst to us at the signing of the deed, is haunted. The buzz that our church-home is haunted comes mainly, I think, from our proximity to graveyard and also the train trestle where the infamous Goat Man of Pope Lick is said to lurk—Goat Man has his own Facebook page, by the way. I dismissed this matter as silly, of course, but in a period of a few years, our neighbor was struck by a car when crossing the road to her mailbox which sat right next to ours, two teen-aged boys were drowned in nearby Floyd’s Fork, other neighbors discovered a young woman who was severely wounded and thrown from a car into a ditch, a nearby house burned to the ground, and on and on. Maybe there was something to the haunting? Meditating on these tragedies reinvigorated old memories of family heartbreaks and I found myself writing about the convergence of the old and new haunts.
When I published that book, I thought okay I’m finished with this subject, but soon poems from Next Door to the Dead began knocking around in my head. I had no idea I’d write enough of them to make an entire book, but here it is. And, Next Door to the Dead, if anything, seems to narrow my real-estate even more. I haven’t found, though, that writing from a small place limits my subjects and themes. After all, Next Door to the Dead takes on war, love, death—and Colonel Sanders.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Grave Interest reviews Next Door to the Dead

Cemetery poetry may be an odd concept for mainstay readers, but for those of us who are “tombstone tourists,” this genre offers a refreshing look into our clandestine indulgences and interests.

Next Door To The Dead is Kathleen Driskell’s latest book; one I found to be irresistible. It takes an understanding of the taboos associated with writing about death, along with true empathy and respect for those living and dead to write poems brimming with thoughtfulness, heartbreak and humor. Driskell introduces us to her “neighbors” in a very matter-of-fact way because after 20 years of living next door to the cemetery, they are indeed the neighbors she’s gotten to know. Read more here . . .

Monday, September 28, 2015

Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from the University Press of Kentucky

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell
In this collection, you engage with age-old traditions of funerary art and poetic meditation on life, death, grief, and loss. What advice would you give to a young poet who is interested in writing about these themes?
Having just come from our Spalding MFA residency abroad in Greece, I am struck again by the ancient roots of our craft. When writing about these funerary traditions and meditations on life and death, young poets follow in the footsteps of legendary Homer and other ancient oral poets who were compelled to take on the same subjects thousands of years ago. It is hard to pinpoint one “form” for an elegy, but reading about this tradition can provide a good structure for writing about grief. In his essay, “The Elegy’s Structure,” in the anthology Structure and Surprise, poet DA Powell discusses how successful elegies take on one of three structures: one with a turn from grief to consolation; one with a turn from grief to the refusal of consolation; and one from grief to deeper grief. It has helped me to think about which of these loose structure best fits my subjects and themes and has provided useful boundaries for emotions that threaten to overcome. Perhaps these structures might be helpful to a young poet as well. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kentucky Women Writers Conference September 11-13

So happy to be a part of the historic and yet completely happening Kentucky Women Writers Conference September 11-13 in Lexington, Ky. I'm looking forward to leading my two-day poetry "One Poem: Two Attitudes." Find more at the KWWC website!

Saturday, August 22, 2015