NC Literary Hall of Fame



Shape the Bent Straight by Robert Lee Kendrick

Main Street Rag Publishing Company
$14.00, paperback
ISBN: 978-1-59948-805-9
June, 2020
Available from the publisher

"Robert Lee Kendrick’s Shape the Bent Straight mines the familiar tropes of Appalachian literature–violence, pills, dangerous relatives, the legacy of the past–to tell the story of Jacob, who is both haunted and repelled by his heritage. This novel-in-verse follows Jacob as he flees the place and the people he is familiar with to find his own way. While the story compels, Kendrick never lets his language sag. This is a world where 'frost stings' and a novice cook 'floats on the smell from the pot.' Whether he describes a cook chopping meat or a workshop, Kendrick’s lines ring with the hard music of authenticity. You might read this quickly for the story it tells, but you will return over and over to linger in the spell these lines cast."
—Al Maginnes, author of The Next Place and Music From Small Towns

"Shape the Bent Straight is an evocative book, wherein each poem is composed of lines that are clipped and terse but 'that gleam like the delicate beads / on the gutter and rails.' These lines ultimately tell a touching story, whose young protagonist must sacrifice everything–his family, his home, his sense of self–for what he believes is right, never losing the knowledge of what it means to be a brother, a son, a human being."
—David Armand

"Shape the Bent Straight acknowledges the genuine brutality in the natural world and the human-made worlds that inhabit it. These connected narrative poems guide us through the lives of troubled people, but they also evoke powerful emotions of the traditional lyric. With these harrowing and beautiful poems, Kendrick achieves a unique and luminous voice."
—William Wright

Robert Lee Kendrick grew up in Illinois and Iowa, but now calls South Carolina home. After earning his M.A. from Illinois State University and his Ph.D from the University of South Carolina, he held a number of jobs, ranging from house painter to pizza driver to grocery store worker to line cook. He now lives in Clemson with his wife and their dog. He is the author of two previous collections, Winter Skin (Main Street Rag Publishing) and What Once Burst With Brilliance (Iris Press). His poems appear in Birmingham Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Tar River Poetry, Louisiana Literature, and elsewhere.

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