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Not Xanadu by Cathryn Hankla

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In “Kubla Khan,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge began with the lines, “In Xanadu did Kubla Khan/ A stately pleasure dome decree.” Evidently, Hankla’s title means that she is writing this, her eleventh poetry collection, somewhere other than a stately pleasure dome. As we read these poems, we can assess whether her pleasure dome simply lacks being stately or her stately dome is not sufficiently pleasurable or whether her environs lack both. Born and raised in Richlands, Virginia, at the edge of the coal fields where her mother was the town librarian, Hankla has enjoyed a four-decade career teaching at Hollins University in Roanoke where she makes her home. She is also the author of four books of fiction and a memoir that focuses on the idea of finding and losing a home. "The poems in Cathryn Hankla's Not Xanadu are clear-eyed and sharp-tongued, vulnerable, unabashed, and prescient. To live in our moment, they suggest, we'd best be alert to absurdity as well as beauty, and hold close moments of reverie as well as face affronts, to know both 'the broken egg and the living bird.' A close observer of both nature and the use and misuse of language, a runner, a native Appalachian, a mindful woman, Hankla can suggest volumes in the merest phrase. These lyric and keen poems have in equal measure seriousness of purpose and lightness of touch." --Carol Moldaw. “Not Xanadu’s poems make an indispensable contribution to many subjects: despair, broken-heartedness, regret, bitterness, careful observation of one's self and what one sees, awe, hope. Hankla has written a book that lets us see why poems are written. The poem 'Considering the Alternative' shows the way." --Dara Wier.

Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2022. 86 pages. Hardback with pictorial cover.