The physical world in Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick is palpable, breath held, straining at the boundaries of the lines’ rhythms, finally bursting out of that tension into joyous exhalation.
“Our Held Animal Breath is grounded in a sharp-eyed vision of how things ought to be—and in clear-eyed understandings of how they actually are. In these brilliantly sequenced poems, Kathryn Kirkpatrick leads us to consider how it feels ‘on the other side of a human eye’ even as she shows us ‘everything not visible’. The poetry is passionate and precise, contemplative and urgent, sometimes lyrical and sometimes wry: a model of ‘what labor and the heart / can make’. If you’re looking for writing that examines the griefs and sweetnesses, the rage and the rewards, of life in our crucial historical moment—and that does so in language both graceful and sizzlingly direct—don’t wait a moment longer. Read this book.”—Jeanne Larsen
“Our Held Animal Breath is a book about what it means to make a home in the world. In delicate, beautifully crafted poems that grapple with large ethical questions—about animals, humans and violence—Kathryn Kirkpatrick looks unflinchingly at the ways in which what binds us to the world is its vanishing. She writes, ‘Having lost so much, it will be easy / to unhinge language, / to unname each flower and tree.’ And yet these poems insist on hinges and connections, on naming and remembering.”—Nicole Cooley
“Whether she’s writing about personal loss or public tragedy, the poems in Kathryn Kirkpatrick’s Our Held Animal Breath always shine with a steady light. The natural world—foxes and squirrels, the ‘raspberries in the sloping meadow’—is a constant, quiet corrective in this work to human creation. We want to make the world over by ourselves and for ourselves, she suggests, but it is impossible for this poet to look away from the destructiveness that accompanies such greed. We will surely ‘lose it.’ And yet, these are not despairing poems. Kirkpatrick celebrates love and friendship, even memorializes the relentless hatred one woman can feel toward another. These are poems that refuse nothing—neither blueberry bushes nor bluegrass nor babies. We’re all in it together, Kirkpatrick seems to say, this ‘one wild rooted dance.’”—Sarah Kennedy
Kathryn Kirkpatrick, poet and literary scholar, is the author of five collections of poetry, including Unaccountable Weather (Press53, 2011). She is also the editor of a collection of essays on Irish women writers, Border Crossings: Irish Women Writers and National Identities (University of Alabama Press, 2000). Kirkpatrick holds a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emory University, where she received an Academy of American Poets poetry prize. Born in Columbia, South Carolina, she was raised in the nomadic subculture of the U.S. military, and grew up in the Phillipines, Texas, Germany, and the Carolinas. Today she lives with her husband, Joseph Conrad scholar, William Atkinson, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and she holds a dual appointment at Appalachian State University as a Professor in the English Department and the Sustainable Development Program.