Category: Book Buzz
Published: 25 October 2013
The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest by Kathryn Stripling Byer
"This is one of those rare books of poetry—earthy, sensuous, brave-spirited—that gives us the feeling of a full human life as vividly as a novel aspires to do. Here are scenes our eyes can focus on and all of our senses stir to—scenes that begin with girlhood on a Georgia farm, alive with its grumbling pigs and whispering corn tall enough to get lost in; scenes evoked by family memories that, like the words great grandmother, 'carried the cadence of Genesis'; imagined scenes from lives of kinfolk who had pioneered in the Black Hills in the rough old days. As the years whirl by, there are scenes of the poet sitting down to oatmeal with her own young daughter, as beyond the window the sunlight transfigures an oak tree on Hawk Knob until it reminds her of Ghiberti’s doors in Florence. By now the poet has gone far afield, as in a childhood poem she felt she might; she has ridden trains through the orange groves of Andalucia; she knows about political assassination in Central America. The final section, deeply emotional for all of its starkness, is a series in which she lives through the last days and death of a grandmother. In these poems we share in the lives of many human beings, the poet among them: a sturdy and enduring stock that can sing:
'All the good times are past and gone,
Little darlin’, don’t weep no more…'
And yet sing it with courage and exhilaration."
—Frederick John Nims, judge for the 1985 Associated Writing Programs Award Series for Poetry
Kathryn Stripling Byer has published six books of poetry. The Girl in the Midst of the Harvest was her debut poetry collection, published by Texas Tech University Press in 1986 as part of the Associated Writing Programs Award Series, selected by John Frederick Nims. Since then, her collections have all been published in the LSU Press Poetry Series. Wildwood Flower, her second collection, was named the Laughlin Selection from Academy of American Poets, followed by Black Shawl, chosen by Billy Collins for the Brockman-Campbell Award, given by the North Carolina Poetry Society. Catching Light received the 2002 Poetry Book Award from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and Coming To Rest earned the Hanes Award in Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers in 2007. Her most recent volume, Descent, appeared in 2012, also in the LSU Press Poetry Series. Her poetry, essays and fiction have appeared in journals and newspapers ranging from The Atlantic to Appalachian Heritage. She served as North Carolina's first woman Poet Laureate from 2005 through 2009. She lives in Cullowhee, North Carolina, surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains.