Monday, April 6, 2009

Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy's poetry books include A Witch's Dictionary, Consider the Lilies, and the newly released Home Remedies. An associate professor of English at Mary Baldwin College, she lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia, with her husband.

Last week I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
My reading pile in the last few weeks has been a heap of poetry, plays, and fiction. It’s late in the semester, and time for Lear in my Introduction to Shakespeare course, so I punctuate my other reading with the Bevington edition of the conflated tragedy. The play strikes me more acutely these days, as it interrogates power and the destruction it wreaks when it’s misused. As an antidote, I picked up a copy of Robert Nye’s The Late Mr. Shakespeare, a novel from the 1990s. It’s erudite, shameless, sometimes obscene—purportedly an autobiography of a player in Shakespeare’s company who in his declining years is writing his memoirs. Nye gleefully rips through most of the popular Shakespeare lore; this is a hilarious novel and I recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction.

But of course I don’t ever get very far from poetry. Right now I have some books by young writers on my table—Katie Cappello’s Perpetual Care, which I have just begun; K. A. Hays’s Dear Apocalypse, and Farrah Field’s Rising. I am putting off Field’s book until last, because I was so taken by the title of the first poem, “Self-Portrait in Toad Suck, Arkansas,” that I’m afraid if I begin the book I will miss class to finish it. (The cover of this book is very appealing too.) I find myself these days drawn to books that have historical and political heft, though that weight can sink a book that lacks complicated tropes and tones. Still, I want poems to do more and more work these days; I want more meaning, more layers to investigate. This is one reason that Hays’s book has been lingering on my desk and in my mind. Her use of biblical allusion, religious registers of language, and the natural world resonate in ways that keep me coming back to individual poems (particularly “The Way of all the Earth,” at least today). Tomorrow, however, is Saturday, and I believe I’m going to let myself dive into Rising.
Learn more about Home Remedies, and read some sample poems from Kennedy's Consider the Lilies, Flow Blue, and A Witch's Dictionary.

--Marshal Zeringue