The goddesses stay with us, often keeping to the shadows until some event in our lives calls them forth, with their luminous mystery drawing us to them. Here is Kathryn Kirkpatrick's invocation to Athena, from her new collection, Unaccountable Weather, due this fall from Press 53. The books can be pre-ordered from Press 53 right now.
I finally met Kathryn five years ago when I was Writer in Residence at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. I felt I had met a soul-sister, and that sense of connection has not diminished with time. I've read her new book with wonder, asking how she could weave such seemingly disparate women's voices into one seamless fabric.
Kathryn is a poet of such thoroughgoing honesty that reading some of these poems feels like eavesdropping, they are that closely focused on the details of experience. Whether waking up from surgery for breast cancer or describing the massage therapist kneading the scar on her chest, Kirkpatrick does not prettify the moment. Nor does she diminish it. What makes this book memorable is how she weaves her own perspective into a tapestry of other presences, creating a chorus of wounded, healing women rather than one solitary woman’s encounter with death and renewal. The goddesses are here, with their grave and luminous visages. And women you might meet at the local laundromat or fast food restaurant. Who is speaking this book? The feminine. Everywoman in her fear, her wit, and her Interior grace.
Not the saucered face of an owl
but a serpent coiled in her hair,
the shape of its head, on which everything
Triangle perhaps. Maybe oval.
She’s not wooed by the snake like Eve
but one with the snake like Medusa.
This is wisdom with bite,
appraisal cool and round as an egg.
Forget the olive tree, flute,
yoked oxen and bridled horse.
Forget Prometheus who tried to take credit.
The flames at her chest tell us
what she has suffered,
what she has made of her suffering.