Welcome to where I am, where my kitchen's always messy, a pot's (or a poet) always about to boil over, a dog is always begging to be fed. Drafts of poems on the counter. Windows filled with leaves. Wind. Clouds moving over the mountains. If you like poetry, books, and music--especially dog howls when a siren unwinds down the hill-- you'll like it here.


MY NEW AUTHOR'S SITE, KATHRYNSTRIPLINGBYER.COM, THAT I MYSELF SET UP THROUGH WEEBLY.COM, IS NOW UP. I HAD FUN CREATING THIS SITE AND WOULD RECOMMEND WEEBLY.COM TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN SETTING UP A WEBSITE. I INVITE YOU TO VISIT MY NEW SITE TO KEEP UP WITH EVENTS RELATED TO MY NEW BOOK.


MY NC POET LAUREATE BLOG, MY LAUREATE'S LASSO, WILL REMAIN UP AS AN ARCHIVE OF NC POETS, GRADES K-INFINITY! I INVITE YOU TO VISIT WHEN YOU FEEL THE NEED TO READ SOME GOOD POEMS.

VISIT MY NEW BLOG, MOUNTAIN WOMAN, WHERE YOU WILL FIND UPDATES ON WHAT'S HAPPENING IN MY KITCHEN, IN THE ENVIRONMENT, IN MY IMAGINATION, IN MY GARDEN, AND AMONG MY MOUNTAIN WOMEN FRIENDS.




Tuesday, April 7, 2009

GOOD REVIEWS: A Celebration



What is a "good" review? It's one that's intelligent, one that can read to the heart of a book and speak honestly about what that book is trying to do. It is not mean-spirited or shallow. It takes its task seriously. This is such a review, by a young poet named Luke Johnson. Several light years beyond the review in coldfront to which I brought some gypsy humor several months back, wouldn't you say?

Coming to Rest By Kathryn Stripling Byer. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2006. $16.95 (pa.)
THE HOLLINS CRITIC
By Luke Johnson

In her latest collection, Coming to Rest, North Carolina’s poet laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer creates a fluid landscape with her poems. The voice in these pieces travels from coast to coast as well as abroad, refusing to rest in a singular present moment. In doing so, the collection arrives at a more circular pursuit of history, “each now forever” as Byer writes in the poem “The Still Here and Now.” It is through creating a circle of family and feelings that these poems search for home, not merely as a place, but as an intangible sense: the slow familiarity of “late summer afternoon / and the dogs asleep under the oak tree.” Though the collection paints many pictures, it is the relationships that Byer presents rather than the landscapes that cultivate a ghostly, but very real sense of home.

In the title poem, Byer wrestles with the legacy of a namesake she never knew while openly questioning her choice of form in the first two sections, one of which is a ghazal and the other a villanelle: “Why cling / to another old form like this no-holds- / barred song for my aunt who died too young.” The revelation of these poetic choices establishes a trend in the collection, drawing the reader into the creative process. By being more closely aligned with the mind of the poet, the reader cannot help but also be in tune with the emotions of the poem. In the final section of the poem, entitled “Free,” Byer returns once again to the physical world, tying her relationship with her aunt to a “nameless creek / almost obscured by shade.” It is in the creek that Byer can reconcile her aunt’s “coming to rest” with Byer’s own continuing struggle with guilt, standing midstream in the water that “keeps rushing through [her].”

One of the finest poems in the collection appears in the final section, a tribute to Robert Watson entitled “Exotics.” Polished and well-crafted, the poem drives toward a relationship heretofore untouched, that of the student-mentor. While this relationship has little to do with the physical space of a house, to a writer it seems as though it is an instrumental step along the way to creating a feeling of home. It is in this environment that Byer recognizes the manner in which a person can take hold of one’s imagination, just as easily as a place: “I confess I have gone nowhere. / I’m still caught inside the same lines I’ve been trying / to write since we walked to Bob’s class.” Through remembering an old classroom with a brilliant professor, Byer creates in the poem a safe space, a peaceful enclave.

What results in Coming to Rest is a “hymn to the landscape,” a collection that digs beneath the dirt from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to the roadside of Interstate 65, and beyond. Byer’s poems scour the past and ultimately leave the reader at once vulnerable and whole, awake to one’s own fragility and aware of the landscape’s ability to be. Byer conveys that home is not merely a place, but a meditation on the moments of quiet that can be found amidst the uproar of everyday.




(silkscreen by my friend Gayle Woody)

6 comments:

Vicki Lane said...

Now that's a reviewer worthy of the name -- thoughtful, engaged -- you won't have to put on your Doc Martins for him!

DeadMule said...

Kathryn, If you haven't read Luke Johnson's poem, "Real South," you are in for treat. When he submitted it to the Mule, it made me cry.
http://www.deadmule.com/poetry/2008/08/luke-johnson-%E2%80%93-two-poems-as-prelude-to-%E2%80%9Creal-south%E2%80%9D/

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Helen, thanks for letting me know about Luke's poem. I've been tracking down his work online but didn't find this one in Dead Mule. I've visited his blog several times, too.
Would it be ok to use one of your poems for my poem of the day slot on the laureate blog?
Vicki, for Luke I would probably wear my trusty aerosoles, but with fishnet stockings!

DeadMule said...

Yes, Kathryn, it would be fine to use one of my poems.

I've proofed "Better With Friends" and am just waiting now for the books to appear. Helen
http://helenl.wordpress.com/

Luke said...

Just saw this today. Thanks for posting the review, and Helen, for posting the link to the poem! It's easy to write "good" reviews when the poetry is so sterling.

doris diosa said...

Chiming in late here, but that review is truly worthy of celebration and re-reading too. i particularly like the concluding paragraph - makes me appreciate - no, love - the book from a whole new angle.