This collection feeds that hunger for the unsweet, for the homely, substantial nutrients of the soul presented in an exquisitely crafted book of equally exquisite poems.
In her shining new poems, at once sensual and tough-minded, Leatha Kendrick heads straight for the best subjects of poetry: love and loss. She writes at the height of her powers, with urgency—and wonder. The poems inSecond Opinion are crammed with the marvelous details of childhood learning, domestic life, illness and health. Although they sharply observe the world, these exciting poems are born of interior moods, sparked by memory, fueled by crisis, and filled with awe.
Leatha Kendrick writes about desire more honestly than any poet I know. The central section of Second Opinion—forthrightly addressing her cancer, in lucid and memorable ways—is breathtaking, but that “buried bomb” is counterbalanced by the poet’s appetite for the pleasures of this world, by “the instinct to hold life close.” “Desire,” she writes, is “a Magritte engine /roaring straight out of /that hearth, my heart,” and she eloquently yearns for family, for places left behind, for the lover’s touch that can transform any body into“ a blossoming hide.” Nobody celebrates everyday details more vividly than her, down to “the deep /peace of our feet touching/ as we sleep”: “What I can believe in, ”Kendrick says of her daughters, at the conclusion of the title poem, “is the healing of their fingers laced through mine.”
In the poem “What I’d Give Her,” Leatha Kendrick warns us, “Don’t refuse the joy of telling/what you see…” The poet certainly takes that advice to heart in this wonderful collection. Kendrick’s poems capture what she sees with directness and energy, in addition to craftsmanship, wordplay, and a fine, self-deprecating sense of humor. Especially powerful is the series of poems about her experience with breast cancer, culminating with the insight, “The map back is a flat / red road, underpinned with bone, she must take her reckonings upon.” Loss and regret may play roles in Leatha Kendrick’s work, but the energy that suffuses every one of these poems is love.
Leatha Kendrick’s poems speak in her true and particular voice of the complexities, and simplicities, of a woman’s life. Her rigorous sense of form both controls and magnifies the passion that energizes her work. While the poems about confronting breast cancer are at the heart of Second Opinion,Kendrick also explores the fleshly realities of family bonds with daughters, mother, husband, sister, all those flawed dynamics that comprise a life. Kendrick’s poems are vividly, drastically human.
SELECT HONORS AND AWARDS
Recipient of Al Smith Fellowships in poetry, 1996 and 2004.
Has received many grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, in support of her poetry, nonfiction and fiction writing and in 2013 was awarded the Sallie Bingham Award for her writing and her work in support of feminist artists.
Residency fellowships at the Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, Vermont, the Mary Anderson Center in Mount Saint Francis, Indiana, and the Hambidge Center in Raybun Gap, Virginia.
Won the Jim Wayne Miller poetry contest in 2002.
Runner-up, Pat Schneider Poetry Contest, 2012.
HM, Passager poetry contest, 2013, 2006.
Has been a finalist in book contests, including the William and Kingman Page first book contest and the Sow’s Ear Review Chapbook contest.