A Swallow Press Book
“The poems of Kari Gunter-Seymour’s Alone in the House of My Heart are ragged with loss, yet sustained by all they take in through the senses, from Mother’s ‘cat-eye glasses, Pentecostal bun,’ whispering ‘loud enough / for the soprano section to hear,’ to ‘collards and heirloom tomatoes / strapped to stakes like sinners / begging the lash.’ As the details accrue, they generate a place conjured by memory, the Appalachia of the speaker’s upbringing, where she nested in the loft of the barn in the hay, ‘spicy sweet,’ and where canned fruit cocktail is the ultimate delicacy. Still, it is a place sowed with the seeds of its own undoing—fracking, coal dust, addiction. Language itself is somehow larger even than the consciousness that creates it, more expansive than right and wrong, and ‘free of the splintery / cold of our foolish selves,’ poetry, which here is synonymous with hard-won love.”
Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets, winner of the 2022 Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry
“Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poems are full of passion: passion for people, passion for place, passion for imagination. Her images are ‘pinpricks grey and blue’ that inhabit us as readers, feed us strength, and give us history—the good, the bad, and the triumphant. In poem after poem, [she] gives us a map to the unsayable and the courage to say it. She knows the pleasures of daily living, the dignity of grieving, and the terror of loss. She knows that when ‘the alcohol has stopped working,’ all we have are words to get us by, get us through, and get us over.”
Allison Joseph, author of Confessions of a Barefaced Woman
“Kari Gunter-Seymour weaves memory, place, love, and pain into a vibrant, complex tapestry of her native southeastern Ohio Appalachia. ‘So much here depends upon / a green corn stalk, a patched barn roof, / weather, the Lord, community,’ she writes. The images in these poems are striking, the language fresh. We smell ‘the tang of weeping cherry,’ see up close the devastation of ‘fracking waste, red clay dust, the bitter soot / of coal’s see ya later sucka!’ Her people are flesh and blood: a great-grandfather ‘at seventy, / firm of belly, back plumb as a disc blade,’ her mother ‘bronzed and shapely’ in a field of daffodils. Alone in the House of My Heart is a deeply moving portrayal of family and home, inheritance and loss, written by a poet whose gift is to insist ‘ordinary things be somehow more.’”
Ellen Bass, author of Indigo
“‘Everything has a dream of itself,’ writes Kari Gunter-Seymour in this splendid new collection. These poems sing of apples and alcoholism, families that pass along wounding and wonder and hard-earned laughter. ‘Promise the garden will thrive, / the thirsty Ohio will hold its drink and the Zoloft / prescribed by the clinic will banish the spirits,’ ends another poem, and it is just this combination of hard truth and humor, love, and the ache of loss right below it that draws me in. These poems stubbornly celebrate the people and landscape of Appalachia; they are American, melancholy, life loving. I wish I could quote every word of ‘An Appalachian Woman’s Guide to Beer Drinking’ here, but you’ll just have to read it for yourself.”
Alison Luterman, author of In the Time of Great Fires
Deeply rooted in respect and compassion for Appalachia and its people, these poems are both paeans to and dirges for past and present family, farmlands, factories, and coal.
Kari Gunter-Seymour’s second full-length collection resounds with candid, lyrical poems about Appalachia’s social and geographical afflictions and affirmations. History, culture, and community shape the physical and personal landscapes of Gunter-Seymour’s native southeastern Ohio soil, scarred by Big Coal and fracking, while food insecurity and Big Pharma leave their marks on the region’s people. A musicality of language swaddles each poem in hope and a determination to endure. Alone in the House of My Heart offers what only art can: a series of thought-provoking images that evoke such a clear sense of place that it’s familiar to anyone, regardless of where they call home.
Kari Gunter-Seymour is the 2020–24 poet laureate of Ohio and the author of A Place So Deep inside America It Can’t Be Seen. A ninth-generation Appalachian, she is the editor of I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices and the founder and host of the seasonal performance series Spoken & Heard. Her poems have appeared in the New York Times, New Ohio Review, One, Rattle, and numerous other publications. More info →
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This poignant collection of masterful elegies centers on the revelatory ways in which the speaker reconciles love, loss, and grief’s legacy. Following her mother’s battle with colon cancer and her own crisis of meaning, Henning culminates the collection with her rediscovery of joy in life’s small moments.
Planted by the Signs brings us the contemporary Appalachian poetry of Misty Skaggs. With a knack for pointed personal and social observation, she tells the stories of generations of women who have learned to navigate a harsh world with a little help from the Farmers’ Almanac and the stars: women who know how to plant by the signs.
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