In The Animals of My Earth School, Mildred Kiconco Barya gives us magnificent hungers and provocative feasts. Her poems tutor us via insects, mammals, birds, and reptiles in the slippages of time and place and the swerves between "dreaming and becoming" that inform our interwoven habits and habitats. With language and structures that are "sinewed with complexity," her poems swing between singing and saying, between "praying and preying." Barya's spirited, multi-species collection asks questions no answers can satiate. But we are assured that "when we arrive at our door, teeth on edge, / we taste beyond question what we have become." -Laura-Gray Street, The Ecopoetry Anthology (co-editor)
Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer from Uganda now living in North Carolina. Her publications include three poetry books, as well as prose, hybrids, and poems published in Shenandoah, Joyland, The Cincinnati Review, Tin House, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Her fourth full-length poetry collection, The Animals of My Earth School, is forthcoming from Terrapin Books, 2023. She is a board member of African Writers Trust and coordinates the Poetrio Reading events at Malaprop’s Independent Bookstore/Café. She teaches creative writing and literature at UNC-Asheville. She blogs here: www.mildredbarya.com
In the compassionate, playful, fable-like poems of The Animals of My Earth School, Mildred Kiconco Barya awakens us to the vividly singing, fully alive, non-human communities surrounding us. These poems demonstrate poetry’s unique ability to prick us from our self-involved numbness and awaken us to wonder. There is great solace, tenderness, and innocence here—the kind of innocence capable of apprehending the creatures of the world—and thus the world itself—afresh. Like a literary Noah’s ark of song, The Animals of My Earth School provides a place where all may dance and thrive. These poems provide pleasure and a glimmer of hope.—Michael Hettich
The question is sometimes put this way: Who speaks for the animals? But what Mildred Kiconco Barya does in this book is what we all can do—she listens to the animals, as if they speak. But it is complicated speaking from them, complicated listening from us which sometimes involves “pecking, rubbing, sucking, pinching, nibbling, and rocking back and forth.” This is a book in the long tradition of animal-stories, but it is an astonishingly new book about cities and evolution and histories both human and divine: “Dictators and liberators dream / the city into new memories / and abandon the ones they grew up with. They create new pasts into /presents that the future can / contain.” Barya, with a tenderness unknown to the dictator, creates old pasts and new presents, and points to a future for all of us to hope for.—Bin Ramke, Earth on Earth.