Poet Leatha Kendrick’s latest book, And Luckier, came out in April, 2020, from Accents Publishing, just as the coronavirus pandemic shut down the United States. The Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning presented her debut reading from the collection in their Carnegie Center from the Couch series.
The book’s opening poem, “Your Fear,” was featured on Rattle’s Poets Respond in December, 2018. The poem speaks to the intersections between our experience of “the news” and the shifting emotions we experience as individuals and society. It explores how the daily newsfeed, whether by design or not, shapes our reality, stoking fears and, often, a sense of helplessness.
Poet, writer, and activist, George Ella Lyon, cites the first line of “Your Fear” in her blurb for Kendrick’s new book: “And Luckier opens with a dispassionate question: ‘who might it serve that you / would grow downhearted?’ The poems that follow take us through many voices, subjects, and perspectives, bringing us at last to this hard-won counsel: ‘So much suffering. We cannot uncause it / But we can set ourselves to mend, / … I will pick up the rubble. / I will carry one stone at a time.’” Lyon asserts that “Kendrick’s powerful fifth collection springs from a mature poet’s reckoning: with the family she was given and the family she has made, with the struggle to answer her calling as an artist, with the dangers and diminishments of age, and with her privileged place in a suffering world.”
Poet and memoirist, Pauletta Hansel quotes another line from “Your Fear”: “ ‘What will your seeing make?’ Kendrick asks in her opening poem. Hers has made these poems of witness and of healing, and we, her readers, are all the luckier for them.”
Leatha Kendrick grew up on a southern Kentucky farm, daughter of a veterinarian and a high school home economics teacher. Oldest of four children, she was most at home in fields or barns (when not reading a book on the window seat and looking out at the horizon). Her adult life was spent eastern Kentucky where she and her husband raised three daughters. Kendrick began writing seriously in midlife and found her first community of writers at the Appalachian Writers Workshop at historic Hindman Settlement School. She received her MFA in Poetry (at the age of 45) from Vermont College of Fine Arts. (Author photo by Kevin Nance.)
Her poems, essays, memoir, and book reviews appear in journals including Tar River Poetry, Appalachian Heritage (now Appalachian Review), New Madrid Review, the Southern Poetry Review, the James Dickey Review, The Southern Women’s Review–and in many anthologies including The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume 3—Contemporary Appalachia; Listen Here!: Women Writing in Appalachia; I to I—Life Writing by Kentucky Feminists; and What Comes Down to Us – Twenty-Five Contemporary Kentucky Poets. She is the author of a documentary film, A Lasting Thing for the World – The Photography of Doris Ulmann and also co-edited Crossing Troublesome – Twenty-five Years of the Appalachian Writers Workshop, with George Ella Lyon. Among her writing awards are two Al Smith fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, as well as the Sallie Bingham Award and fellowships and grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. She currently lives with her husband, Will, and one lively small black dog in Lexington, Kentucky. And Luckier is her fifth collection of poems.