- Paperback: 96 pages
- Publisher: WordTech Communications (September 4, 2012)
Our Held Animal Breath is a collection of poems grappling with the failure of human political and social structures to effectively address the dilemmas of our crucial historical moment. Registering an eco-feminist consciousness, the narrators of these poems expose the intertwined vulnerabilities of women, animals, and the land to masculinist agendas of mastering nature for profit.
Poems in the opening section explore the ways powerful elites compromise the habitats of human and non-human animals alike. The lives of tethered foxes, bewildered squirrels, displaced buffalo, and factory-farmed turkeys echo the lives of ordinary citizens experiencing degradation and disenfranchisement in the face of climate change, war-mongering, and political corruption. Thus, an old woman rakes leaves before dawn after a disappointing election, a gardener mulches roses with newspapers recording dire headlines, and a meditation student struggles with the consequences of a military invasion.
After establishing this broad context of ecological and political crisis, the collection moves on to poems of interior struggle where narrators confront grief over the loss of loved ones: an old friend dies suddenly and unexpectedly, a beloved cousin falls victim to domestic violence, a friendship dissolves in the aftermath of misunderstandings. However, the poems in this section also evoke the power of animal companions and the natural world to teach alternative relations to others, to the land, and to the self. A dying dog re-grounds his human companion in their mutual habitat, a garden landscape reorients the gardener to the limits of a friendship, and dreams suggest transformative routes through interpersonal conflicts.
Finally, in the third section, joyful alternatives emerge. A woman rebuilds her relationship with her mother in the process of reconnecting with her local habitat. Narrators explore creative opportunities for transformation, establish their ethical bottom lines, and re-affirm their interconnectedness with all creatures on a living, responding planet. One narrator learns to can fruit for the first time, and in the process she rediscovers her love for her mother and her land. Another narrator reconnects with the sexual currents in her own body. The volume concludes with a poem depicting the held breath of a crowd watching the escape of a rabbit who has found a way to survive in an inhospitable urban environment.
Raised in the nomadic subculture of the U.S. military, Kathryn Kirkpatrick was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and grew up in the Phillipines, Germany, Texas and the Carolinas. Today she lives with her husband, Will, and their two shelties in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and she currently holds a dual appointment at Appalachian State University as a Professor in the English Department and the Sustainable Development Program. She has a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emory University, where she received an Academy of American Poets poetry prize.
Her poetry collections include The Body’s Horizon (1996), which was selected by Alicia Ostriker for the Brockman-Campbell award; Beyond Reason (2004), which was awarded the Roanoke-Chowan Poetry Prize by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association; Out of the Garden (2007), which was a finalist for the Southern Independent Booksellers Association poetry award; Unaccountable Weather (2011) recently published by Press53, and Our Held Animal Breath (just out from WordTech editions in October 2012). She has held writing residencies at the Tyrone Guthrie Center in Ireland and at Norton Island off the coast of Maine. As a literary scholar in Irish studies and the environmental humanities, she has published essays on class trauma, ecofeminist poetics, and animal studies.
Kathryn Kirkpatrick’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:
Saturday, June 8th: Unabridged Chick
Monday, June 10th: Savvy Verse and Wit
Wednesday, June 12th: Lit and Life
Monday, June 17th: The Z Axis
Wednesday, June 19th: Worducopia
Monday, June 24th: Necromancy Never Pays
Wednesday, June 26th: A Bookish Way of Life
Wednesday, July 3rd: Savvy Verse and Wit – author Q&A