"What are my words offering to the greater conversation? How can I be certain to always speak my truths, stand proud of who I am and what I have to offer? We humans were built to love. Kindness is free. I like to spread that stuff around every chance I get."
Kari Gunter-Seymour is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her poetry collections include Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022), winner of the "2023 Book of the Year Award" for narrative poetry from the American Book Fest and finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award; A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila Na Gig Editions, 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and Dirt Songs (forthcoming EastOver Press, 2024). A ninth generation Appalachian, she is the editor of I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, winner of the "2023 Poetry Anthology Best Book Award" from American Book Fest; funded through an Academy of American Poets Fellowship Grant and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. She is the executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project and editor of it’s anthology series, Women Speak. Gunter-Seymour holds writing workshops for incarcerated teens and adults and women in recovery. She is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University; the founder, curator, and host of "Spoken & Heard," a seasonal performance series featuring poets, writers, and musicians from across the country. She was selected to serve as a 2022 Dodge Poetry Festival Poet and is an artist in residence for the Writing the Land Project and a Pillars of Prosperity Fellow for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Verse Daily, World Literature Today, and on Poem-a-Day.
PRAISE FOR "DIRT SONGS: (2023 ABF Best Book Award and finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award)
A noteworthy and insightful poetic portrait. - Kirkus Review
PRAISE FOR "ALONE IN THE HOUSE OF MY HEART:"
A breathtaking, artful set of poems on loss, family, place, and memory. - Kirkus Starred Review
We reckon that nine generations in Appalachia is long enough for a place to get in the bones of a family, and that kinheritance has marked Kari Gunter-Seymour with an intuitive feel for one of America’s most isolated and peculiar regions. - Matt Sutherland, Foreword Reviews
These poems are delicately nuanced and so hard-edged, so unique, they can make you catch your breath. - Hephzibah Roskelly, World Literature Today
Gunter-Seymour’s talent shines like a diamond in this collection: solid, clear, sparkling.
“The poems of Kari Gunter-Seymour’s Alone in the House of My Heart are ragged with loss, yet sustained by all they take in through the senses, from Mother’s ‘cat-eye glasses, Pentecostal bun,’ whispering ‘loud enough / for the soprano section to hear,’ to ‘collards and heirloom tomatoes / strapped to stakes like sinners / begging the lash.’ As the details accrue, they generate a place conjured by memory, the Appalachia of the speaker’s upbringing, where she nested in the loft of the barn in the hay, ‘spicy sweet,’ and where canned fruit cocktail is the ultimate delicacy. Still, it is a place sowed with the seeds of its own undoing—fracking, coal dust, addiction. Language itself is somehow larger even than the consciousness that creates it, more expansive than right and wrong, and ‘free of the splintery / cold of our foolish selves,’ poetry, which here is synonymous with hard-won love.”
—Diane Seuss, author of frank: sonnets READ ADDITIONAL COMMENTS
PRAISE FOR "A PLACE SO DEEP INSIDE AMERICA IT CAN'T BE SEEN:" (2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award)
"Kari Gunter-Seymour's A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen does what journalists and J.D. Vance failed to do: it provides an intimate look at a landscape and family from within Appalachia while recognizing that one story does not the region make. That said, the connections Gunter-Seymour creates throughout her book weave the Appalachian and American together, providing a rare glimpse of what unity might look like."
- Jessica Cory CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REVIEW
Kari Gunter-Seymour is a poet whose work resounds with candid, lyrical poems about Appalachia’s social and geographical afflictions and affirmations. History, culture, and community shape the physical and personal landscapes of Gunter-Seymour’s native southeastern Ohio soil, scarred by Big Coal and fracking, while food insecurity and Big Pharma leave their marks on the region’s people. A musicality of language swaddles each poem in hope and a determination to endure. Her second full length collection, Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio university Swallow Press 2022) offers what only art can: a series of thought-provoking images that evoke such a clear sense of place that it’s familiar to anyone, regardless of where they call home. Purchase HERE.
Gunter-Seymour's first full length collection A Place So Deep Inside America It Can't Be Seen (Sheila-Na_Gig Editions 2020) was the winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and long listed for the Jacar Press Julie Suk Award, , purchase HERE. Read reviews of the book from Southern Literary Review, Ohioana Quarterly and Cultural Weekly.
Gunter-Seymour is a ninth generation Appalachian and editor of "I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing, Ohio's Appalachian Voices," funded by the Academy of American Poets and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through a 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship grant. She also edits the Women of Appalachia Project™ anthology series, "Women Speak," volumes 1-8 and "Essentially Athens Ohio," an anthology focused on landmarks, tales and experiences of those living in or deeply connected to Athens county. She holds a B.F.A. in graphic design and an M.A. in commercial photography and is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. A poem she wrote in support of families living in poverty in Athens County, OH, went viral and has been seen by over 100,000 people, resulting in thousands of dollars donated to her local food pantry. She is the winner of the 2022 New Ohio Review/Moveable Writing Contest and the 2021 Lascaux Prize in Poetry. She is Poet Laureate of Ohio.
Her work was selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey to be included in the PBS American Portrait crowdsourced poem, Remix: For My People. Her poetry has been featured in The NY Times, World Literature Today, Verse Daily, and appears in many fine publications. Her chapbook “Serving” is available from Crisis Chronicles Press. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. She taught a monthly workshop series and has worked with incarcerated men, women, teens, and women in recovery housing.
She is the founder, curator and host of Spoken & Heard, a seasonal performance series featuring poets, writers and musicians from across the country, funded by the Ohio Arts Council and sponsored by The Dairy Barn Arts Center, Athens, OH.
Her award winning photography has been published nationally in The Sun Magazine, World Literature Today, Light Journal, Looking at Appalachia, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Vine Leaves Journal and Appalachian Review.
Gunter-Seymour is the founder/executive director of the “Women of Appalachia Project,” an arts organization she created to address discrimination directed at women from the Appalachian region by encouraging participation from women artists (spoken word and fine art ) of diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to come together, embrace the stereotype, show the whole woman; beyond the superficial factors people use to judge her. (www.womenofappalachia.com).