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.


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Monday, February 9, 2009

DESCENT: My new manuscript



My new manuscript has been printed and is ready to send to the editor at LSU Press. I've already decided on the cover, if LSU chooses to accept the book. You can see it above, Cindy Davis's TOTEM GHOST, acrylic on half inch gallery wrap canvas. It's 23"h x 23" w, and I have just made arrangements to be its owner!

Here's a poem to go with it.


DOWN



When the telephone rang,
I was brushing my hair
in the bathroom and squinting
my eyes just enough
so my face in the mirror
looked almost like those
on the covers of Seventeen,
distant and dreamy,
the dogwoods and
pear trees in flower,
the windows wide open,
my mother’s voice suddenly
crying out, gone,
almost gone,
and the door
slamming after my father
whom I can still see driving
too fast, as always,
down that sandy road
to the house where my uncle
lay dying, my mother
forgetting to turn off
the oven as she grabbed
the keys to our Chevrolet,
flinging back one last
command, which I tried
to obey, standing there
at the edge of the known
world, my hands holding on
to the fence stretched
alongside the highway,
while I watched the swollen
sun that I knew nobody,
not even Jesus, could
talk into not going down.

from WAKE, a chapbook published by Spring Street Editions.

17 comments:

Susan M. Bell said...

I remember seeing that work some time back. Don't remember if it was you or Vicki Lane who pointed me there, but I do remember that this was my favorite of all her works. Lucky you for grabbing that one up. I'll have to be satisfied with the copy I saved to use on my computer desktop. *sigh*

Lynn ... said...

Kathryn ... I agree with Susan, the artwork is amazing, but your poem is really moving! Again you've taken me back to a similar time and though it's hazy, you helped part some clouds of the day my grandmother died and the chaos surrounding those first knowing moments. You have captured a moment few of us ever really stop to think about, but what a defining moment in our lives. I love your work. Truly.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Susan, yes, I posted some of Cindy's work back in the summer. I'm delighted that you saved it to your desktop. Cindy would be very pleased to know that. You should order a print of it. That's what I'm looking at right now. At one point she even had this painting on some of her totebags she was selling through cafepress (I think she's changed her "venue" since then.). Lynn, you always make my day with your comments. This poem is from a memory of the afternoon my uncle died suddenly of a heart attack while at my grandparents' farm. The details are pretty much real in terms of narrative. I had been, of course, orderd to "pray," but I mostly stood mute and scared out by the cedar tree, watching the sun set and dreading my mother coming back with the news.

Lynn ... said...

Isn't it strange how we can remember the most minute of details when we, as kids, stumbled into chaotic circumstances? I suppose even then, the "someday" poet in you was taking mental notes and jotting them down for safe keeping somewhere in your memory banks. I LOVE that about this piece. It's like a snapshot a child would take with a grownup camera.

It inspired a memory of my own and my latest piece called "Grandmas' Remedy". Thanks for that!

Nancy Simpson said...

Hello, Hello. I like the painting and like your poem more. You can't begin to know the joy and pride in my heart when I read the conversation between you and Lynn.

Evening Light Writer said...

I can't wait until this is published! I've been reading with great interest the poems that you've been posting from this manuscript. I think the painting fits beautifully..I don't know there is something menacing and haunting about it, a bit dark. Perhaps I am the only one who sees this? I read a mystical tone to your poems.

Nancy Simpson said...

Kay, When I first saw the painting I thought it was of the moon. Then after reading your poem "Down" I saw that it is the sun. The painting is a bit dark as Evening Light said, especially with the black cloud coming to cover the sun,but it is perfect for the manuscript title DESCENT. I want the book. I look forward to its publication.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Nancy and "Evening Light," I think the sun could be either setting or rising, but I see it as setting, and the spirit coming up out of the forest, the land. I want the title to connect in several ways, first with lineage (descent), the descent literally of a culture a place, as well as other literal "descents,"but also descent into the worlds beneath as in Native American mythology, the 3rd and 4th worlds where the light is different, everything blooms, and so forth. Again, I want the creative ambiguity of the word to work throughout the book and the painting captures the dark, the light, the haunting of the world I come fromt.

Vicki Lane said...

A fine cover and an even finer poem! The final four lines are absolutely perfect.

Anonymous said...

Kay,

It will be a beautiful cover for a much anticipated book. I love the poem "Down" and am inspired by it.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, thanks for the thumbs up. I worked on pacing a over many drafts for this poem so that the ending would seem just right. I'm so glad you think it worked!
And thank you , anon., for your good words. I'm just back from a fabulous Coffee with the Poets, sponsored by Netwest, over in Hayesville. I'll be posting the poems I heard on my laureate site or on both sites. What a great group!
Mindy, your renga is up on the laureate blog now.

Cindy Davis said...

Very kind words about the painting, BUT I too like the poem more! Can't wait for the book!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Cindy, thanks very much! I'm heading to Ga. tomorrow and will pick up the painting at my mother's. I love looking at your artwork. It really does connect me with whatever that mystery is that makes me want to respond. K.

DeadMule said...

What a beautiful poem, Kathryn. And the cover is good, too. Hope your book is accepted quickly. Best, Helen

Jane said...

That's a marvelous idea for a cover. I know I'll like the poems - goes without saying. I'm anticipating the book even more.

karenh said...

I'm a little late in responding, but I'll add my enthusiastic agreement with the other comments. Even on my monitor, the painting has such vivid colors and depth. I have no doubt that it looks more so in person. It will be the perfect cover for your deep and vivid poems. So very glad I got to hear you read some of them. Can't wait for the book.

"Down" also sparked a memory for me. I was only three when my brother's twin died at 11 months, so I don't have a clear picture of events, but I DO remember.

Kaye Barley said...

oh my. I keep finding the most breathtaking things here in both images and words.
i love it here.