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Alone in the House of My Heart by Kari Gunter-Seymour

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A ninth generation Appalachian, the poet, Kari Gunter-Seymour dedicates this, her second poetry collection, “For my people: steeped in survival and hallelujah”. She is the current poet laureate of Ohio and the founder and director of the Women of Appalachia Project and editor of Women Speak. “A breathtaking, artful set of poems on loss, family, place, and memory.”—Kirkus (Starred review). “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. “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.

Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press, 2022. 90 pages. Trade paperback.