NC Literary Hall of Fame



Keeping in Place by Mary Ricketson

Finishing Line Press
$14.99, paperback
July, 2021
Available from the publisher

"In Keeping in Place, Mary Ricketson pays homage to the natural world she loves, securing emotions she treasures. Her identity flourishes as she longs for the end of Pandemic. On her walks, she salutes the cow, the mule, the plants, and a hemlock she tunes to Survival."
—Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, 2015-2018, author of Slavery and Freedom on Paul’s Hill 

"Mary Ricketson’s Keeping in Place is one of the first of a new generation of poems inspired by the global pandemic of 2020, and it invites the reader to find balance, if not solace, in the always-already sacred act of recognizing and naming what is: blueberries, loneliness, empty clotheslines before an empty house, communion with cows, an ankle that 'loves near naked bone,' the 'go-it-alone and wish for flight' that accompany the fearful positive test result. Pandemic, we learn here, 'turns eye to another beauty / sutures half lives to each other. Observing the hemlocks struggling in the parasitic grip of the woolly adelgid, Ricketson considers what it means to be alive in each moment even while dying. The poet, like the reader, does not get to escape or transcend covid-19, but by the grace of her words, connecting poet and reader alike to the wider scope of the nonhuman, she is able to know it, name it, and live into and through it. In the face of this knowing, the poet 'unfettered…/…walk[s] west and wait[s] for the sun to set,' as we all must. This is the book which can help us to do it well."
—Catherine Carter, author of The Memory of Gills, The Swamp Monster at Home, and Larvae of the Nearest Stars

"Keeping in Place is a collection of poems where the speaker, stricken by COVID, turns her focus to nature, drinks in the magic of the mountains and absorbs the 'wisdom of walnuts.' Her main companion is none other than a young cow, who wears a 'yellow bell of a necktie.' Solo, ill, and counting the days since she’s been touched, the speaker still makes the reader chuckle after waking to a stinkbug for a lover, or being chased by a chicken. Ultimately, both the speaker and the reader grow 'past first lonely, past the longings' to a new awareness of being, brought on by the pain and forced solitude of COVID. These are poems that can be filmed, and the reader will walk away with the beauty of the natural world emblazoned on them."
—Rosemary R. Royston, author of Splitting the Soil

Mary Ricketson lives in the Appalachian Mountains and maintains a private practice as a mental health counselor. Her poems often reflect the healing power of nature, surrounding mountains as midwife for her words.

Her published collections are I Hear the River Call My Name, Hanging Dog Creek, Shade and Shelter, and Mississippi: The Story of Luke and Marian.

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