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!

Monday, August 17, 2015

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

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell
What was the most striking piece of history you encountered when researching for Next Door to the Dead?
I’m interested in lots of history, American history, and the South, in particular, and couldn’t believe my luck a few years ago when Harry Girdley, a trustee of the Mt. Zion and a descendent of the church founders, dropped off The History of Mt. Zion Evangelical Church and Cemetery as Told through Documents and Deeds with Latest List of Burials, a book he researched and compiled with his sister Frances Christina Girdley Barker. Over the years, I had tried on my own to do a bit of research on the property, but as the church was nonprofit, I could find no tax records that established its origin. I regularly cornered folks visiting the cemetery, but memories were foggy and conflicting. Harry’s book provides deeds, church minutes, and burial records that have proved endlessly fascinating. I learned, finally, the church building we live in was dedicated in 1859. And for over a decade, I’d been taken with a brushy corner of the cemetery next door where I’d discovered four primitive-looking nubs of stone seemed placed haphazardly. It was only through Harry’s records that I learned they were the markers of a “slave family.” Much is still unknown about that family—did they die as slaves or were they a freed family?—but a bit of that particular mystery is filled in, and continues to engage my imagination.