Saturday, June 8, 2013

Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Title: Our Held Animal Breath: Poems
Author: Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Genre: Poetry (Nature / Ecology / Politics/ Contemporary / Feminism)
Publisher/Publication Date: WordTech Communications (9/4/2012)
Source: TLC Book Tours

Rating: Liked.
Did I finish?: I did, very quickly.
One-sentence summary: More than forty poems on current events, the devastation of world politics and personal loss, the challenge of living hopefully when the body fails, friends die, and the joy of nature around us.
Reading Challenges: Dive Into Poetry

Do I like the cover?: I do -- the woman's shoe on the fence is both sad and playful and rather captures the feel of the volume and in particular, reminds me of a piece included here, 'Some Rough Justice'.

I'm reminded of...: Diane Ackerman

First line: I'll admit it's rusty with disuse/so when I say it lately in a group,/it comes up like machinery through sludge., from 'On Being Told Not to Use the Word Moral'

Buy, Borrow, or Avoid?: Borrow or buy.

Why did I get this book?: I like poetry and usually don't mind politics so much within a poetic framework.

Review: At ninety-five pages, this slim volume holds forty-four poems where politics brush shoulders with the stunning vistas from the Blue Ridge Mountains and other rural locales, and loss and fear are tempered with cautious hope and steely determination.

Extremely readable, Kirkpatrick's pieces share familiar actions -- hiking, gardening, meditating -- with emotions ranging from loss, confusion, and hurt to slow understanding and squared, pragmatic optimism. (The publisher has four poems from this collection posted for preview.)

I raced through this volume in one night, then spent a few days returning to the poems that really sang to me. As a news junkie, Kirkpatrick's anguish about current events resonated deeply, especially as she tried to go about her day doing other things.

Collectively, this volume painted a portrait of women I know -- the women from my work, my mother and her sisters, my neighbors -- and I felt a bit like I was reading their journals, seeing their private pains and personal passions. It felt intimate without being embarrassing.

Some of my favorite poems in the collection include 'Driving Home', which is posted online at Cold Mountain Review, a flash of fright and heartbreak that immediately resonated with me and that I've reread maybe a dozen times now!; 'Stroke', Kirkpatrick's response on hearing the news of her friend's death; 'Canning Globalization', on her attempts at preserving fruits in jars, an experiment that reminds me a bit of my only attempt at it, political commentary and all; and 'Rescuing the Garden', a moment of gardening that is heartbreaking and triumphant in its tiny, specific focus.

It's been rainy all week again, Biblical-like deluges, and this volume captured that mood. Everything is green, but sodden; I'm hopeful and dejected in equal part. Kirkpatrick's poems were good companions to commiserate with and keep me grounded.

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer a copy of Our Held Animal Breath to one lucky reader! To enter, fill out this brief form. Open to US/Canadian residents only, ends 6/28.


  1. Great review! I just read this one the other day and feel like I know Kirkpatrick. There is so much passion in these pieces.

    1. Agreed -- really wonderful collection. Emotive without feeling emotional, if that makes sense!

  2. I love your format for reviewing books, and I'm glad you review poetry.

    1. Thank you -- I appreciate it! I do enjoy poetry -- it's good for my brain, I think!

  3. Sounds like you had the perfect weather to enjoy these poems by!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  4. I liked this collection too, but the cover is not eye-catching to me. I find it blah.