Listen FREE for 90 days
Get 90 DAYS FREE of Amazon Music Unlimited with purchase of an eligible book. Learn more
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
Our Held Animal Breath Paperback – September 4, 2012
Special offers and product promotions
About the Author
Kathryn Kirkpatrick, poet and literary scholar, is the author of five collections of poetry, including Unaccountable Weather (Press53, 2011). She is also the editor of a collection of essays on Irish women writers, Border Crossings: Irish Women Writers and National Identities (University of Alabama Press, 2000). Kirkpatrick holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emory University, where she received an Academy of American Poets poetry prize. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, she was raised in the nomadic subculture of the U.S. military, and grew up in the Phillipines, Texas, Germany, and the Carolinas. Today she lives with her husband, Joseph Conrad scholar, William Atkinson, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and she holds a dual appointment at Appalachian State University as a Professor in the English Department and the Sustainable Development Program.
Showing 1-2 of 2 reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Any strong book of poetry is rare in its own original way. The particular magic in Kathryn Kirkpatrick's new book of poems, Our Held Animal Breath, emanates from a courageously mature voice that speaks memorably about ordinary subjects--a subfloor, a dog's seizures, mole removal, a colleague's hatred, the ache of midlife, the loss of American democracy, the murder of a friend, the poet's cognizance of suffering in the midst of canning--with explosive insight into the sprung particulars of her ordinary subject matter. Like the "delicate bombs" Robert Lowell called Elizabeth Bishop's poems, Kirkpatrick's poems detonate with a subtle, continual power, betraying a lapidary skill well attuned to the legacy of poetry.
Throughout Our Held Animal Breath I hear echoes of Adrienne Rich, Seamus Heaney, Evan Boland, Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Paula Meehan, Gary Snyder, William Butler Yeats, and Carolyn Kizer. But Kirkpatrick's voice resounds over these echoes with its own sonic mastery. Her patient, musical free verse excavates emotional ground with careful but penetrating digging, uncovering memorable things she didn't know she knew. These discoveries, which she shares so generously with her reader, contain a sense of ironic familiarity that only hard-won heuristic writing can reveal, as in this metaphorical serendipity at the conclusion of "The Floor":
In the face
of the vast level
we back off
from the absolute,
laid down an eggshell white
and with acrylic blues
simulated smoky tile,
the thing itself
far more than we could afford,
the thing itself
not what we were after.
(From "The Floor")
In her poem "Ars Poetica," Kirkpatrick cites a passage by Horace in her epigraph that serves as a credo for her approach to writing in general, and to her poems in particular.
"Choose a subject that is suited to your abilities, you who aspire to be writers; give long thought to what you are capable of undertaking, and what is beyond you." As a poet who writes "adequately" (a laconic term Emily Dickinson used to describe sufficient and fit expression, even ideas of infinite power) within herself about subjects "that suit [her] abilities, Kirkpatrick is not, however, also a poet who is in any way satisfied with writing comfortably. Her nerve "to undertake what is beyond [her]" leads her to leap into deep waters with her fear intact, but also with a confidence in her "abilities" to find her way to a new shore. As a denizen of the American South, she keeps one foot on the ground of her native North Carolinian and the other in the larger world. "Driving back to my blue mountains," she declares in "Stubbornly Green," "I am less than ever at home." Her innate sense of exile compels her in turn to declare allegiance to lyrical poetry's borderless country:
And here it is now
fear rising in your belly
as you stand in the doorway.
While Dr. King was dreaming
his dream and Rosa sat where she liked,
a white girl left the Jim Crow south,
became a citizen of the mottled world
and took me.
In venturing beyond her own lyricized experience, Kirkpatrick discovers a transpersonal self that as a citizen of poetry speaks with a vulnerable but strong feminine voice to both women and men, in a universal human language filled with pathos, hope, political exigency, self-accountability, tenderness, tough-mindedness, and a "cold eye" that witnesses poignantly to what so few other American poets seem willingly to take on as a "suitable subject," namely the grief of our time and place.
If beauty is truth and truth beauty,
who sewed these seams for pennies,
sat with a vat of toxic dyes,
drank the runoff water
with the cotton's pesticides
who lost his child
who lost her life
while I sit in my A-line skirt,
suddenly ashes and shroud?
(From "Ars Poetica")
The poems in "Our Held Animal Breath" wake us to truths with a telling that is artfully "slant." Kirkpatrick has studied her heart and found it "caged and virulent." The poetry that it informs is thrilling and wild, yet also refined and brilliantly measured in lines that hang in the balance of Kirkpatrick's knowing for now and her fear of forgetting, despite her "thirteenth confident/ pronouncement on poetry, music, and politics." Her humility undergirds her poetic vision when she confesses: "I am Lily Briscoe once more/ afraid when I looks again/ I won't see what I see." But we can be very thankful for what she does see and has seen throughout this book.