Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Kentucky Women Writers Conference September 11-13

So happy to be a part of the historic and yet completely happening Kentucky Women Writers Conference September 11-13 in Lexington, Ky. I'm looking forward to leading my two-day poetry "One Poem: Two Attitudes." Find more at the KWWC website!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from the University Press of Kentucky

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell
What was the most striking piece of history you encountered when researching for Next Door to the Dead?
I’m interested in lots of history, American history, and the South, in particular, and couldn’t believe my luck a few years ago when Harry Girdley, a trustee of the Mt. Zion and a descendent of the church founders, dropped off The History of Mt. Zion Evangelical Church and Cemetery as Told through Documents and Deeds with Latest List of Burials, a book he researched and compiled with his sister Frances Christina Girdley Barker. Over the years, I had tried on my own to do a bit of research on the property, but as the church was nonprofit, I could find no tax records that established its origin. I regularly cornered folks visiting the cemetery, but memories were foggy and conflicting. Harry’s book provides deeds, church minutes, and burial records that have proved endlessly fascinating. I learned, finally, the church building we live in was dedicated in 1859. And for over a decade, I’d been taken with a brushy corner of the cemetery next door where I’d discovered four primitive-looking nubs of stone seemed placed haphazardly. It was only through Harry’s records that I learned they were the markers of a “slave family.” Much is still unknown about that family—did they die as slaves or were they a freed family?—but a bit of that particular mystery is filled in, and continues to engage my imagination.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

First Poem: A Guest Blog by Kathleen Driskell

My new book Next Door to the Dead (University of Kentucky Press 2015) includes many poems I’ve written about living with my family in a Civil War era country church that is directly “next door” to a humble graveyard. We’ve lived here for over twenty years, and since then the poems I’ve written and published do concern religion, spirituality, mortality and grief, but the truth is I’ve been writing about mortality and grief since I was a child. In Next Door to the Dead, because of that, I thought it important to include this poem:
Child’s Poem for Sgt. Horace Mitchell, Jr. 1946-1968   
 War is bad.
It makes me sad.
When my uncle gets home
from Vietnam,
I will be glad.
If you’re a teacher, as I am, I want to tell you something most of my readers don’t know . . .
To read the rest of my post, visit Marjetta Geerling's blog at 

Monday, August 3, 2015

Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from University Press of Kentucky

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell
The speaker in this collection gives voice to a diverse cross-section of people—from Tchaenhotep, a mummified Egyptian woman, to a Civil War infantryman. Which, of all of these, was the most fun to imagine? Which was the most difficult?

Tchaenhotep was the most fun, and at the same time, the most difficult to imagine. I began my relationship with her years ago after accompanying my children on grade school field trips to the Louisville Science Center. Like a lot of people, I am fascinated with ancient burial rites of queens and kings; however, it wasn’t until I read that Tchaenhotep was not a royal, but rather a middle-class housewife that I became totally smitten with her. Her ordinary life made me feel that we had something in common and that I might be able to enter her character. I have loved wondering why her husband would have gone to the great expense of embalming her and thinking about her floating out of the downtown Louisville library, where she was kept for many years, during the Great Flood of 1937. On the other hand, she lived thousands of years ago in a completely different culture, and those are vast challenges to overcome when trying to embody a persona. The best indication of my difficulty in writing about her is the fact I thought about her for years before I believed myself ready to write a poem about her.