A PLACE SO DEEP
IT CAN'T BE SEEN
Sheila-Na-Gig Editions 2020
KariGunter-Seymour’s new collection, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, is a timeless array of poems that invites the reader to traverse memories that feel as sacred as scripture. The collection is stunning in its ability to elevate memory and hold singular experiences aloft for perusal. In concert, the poems read like a carefully preserved palimpsest, layered cohesively, suggesting there’s always more where that came from. Not a single poem is negligible. This is an airtight intersection of family and kinship, and through Gunter-Seymour’s meticulous model, we are asked to consider what we, too, have inherited from the land as much as from our people, and how any, many ways, “Everything alive aches for more.”
-Bianca X, Affrilachian Poet, Author of Black Mermaid
“Generations pass and still we toil/scratch at scars, lose track of the path home” Kari Gunter-Seymour writes in her poignant new collection A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen .These searing poems, however, have no trouble tracing the path to the ground of the poet’s making—her childhood home—and to her mother and father, unforgettable, as flesh, ghost and memory. These poems feel necessary and real and stark as the Appalachian Mountains themselves.
-Rita Sims Quillen, author of Wayland and The Mad Farmer’s Wife
I know with all my knowing others are going to talk about A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen as a fine example of Appalachian writing, and they would be correct, but what I read in this body of work makes me believe in a raw, uncontainable power, the kind that changes and shapes entire mountain ranges, that can fill black holes, that turns flames back onto what is already burned saying “This far, no farther.” This work represents one woman against a world-class destructive force and she will not be silenced. Such power is rarely found.
— Stellasue Lee, Editor Emerita, Rattle, author of Queen of Jacks New and Selected Poems
In A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, Kari Gunter-Seymour writes with clear, evocative language as she weaves stories of her people, especially the strong women in her life who are portrayed honestly and with compassion. She takes us along on an intergenerational journey through roles as daughter, granddaughter, mother, grandmother, all closely connected to those who came before and those yet to return home. These vivid poems, deeply rooted in place and nature, are filled with images of a life spent in northern Appalachia. Gunter-Seymour writes of planting by the signs and the music of Hank and Dolly, but moves onto contemporary themes like border walls and legacies of war. In these poems, the past meshes with the present, and provides solid footing to face the future.
-Jayne Moore Waldrop, author of Retracing My Steps.
The poems in Kari Gunter-Seymour’s Serving are so tender, reading them hurts—but it’s a sweet ache, the kind worth enduring. The collection begins with the speaker’s memory of her son as a young boy, in “Oshkosh bibs and tiny / red tennis shoes,” but in the next poem, he is a young adult, deploying with his “tactical gear” and “newly shaved head.” Why isn’t this juxtaposition jarring? Because that fierce, abiding love is a kind of umbilicus between a mother and her child, regardlessof age or distance. The poems in Serving are so much about place—about home—whether Appalachia or Kandahar. As Gunter-Seymour shows us, poem after masterful poem, serving is not only about sacrifice, what those in the military do for our country. Serving is also what we do for one another, for the people we call home, no matter where they are.
-Maggie Smith, Good Bones
Kari Gunter-Seymour boldly pens poems that imagine war and take a peak. I still can be stubborn about “can you write about it if you haven’t lived it?” Gunter-Seymour can. These are some of the best military poems, mother’s perspective or not, that I have ever read. Serving should be mandatory reading for military personnel of all branches and their families. The poems have the ability to delve into the deep meaningful conversations of intimate connection. Serving begins with “Photo of You, 1985,” which explores the images of the past that help define the bond between a mother and her son. The small book ends with “No Word from Kandahar,” a poem that invited me to understand that the picture, the image, the memory isn’t good enough anymore. Words are needed. Maybe a picture isn’t always worth a thousand words. And in that invitation, Gunter-Seymour reminds me of the power of poetry itself.
-J.M. Green, The Novice Angler, Librarian at Xavier University
The reader can’t help but step completely inside Kari Gunter-Seymour’s Serving. Each poem is whole, yet together these pieces build to the larger story of a mother reaching out to her son through any distance. From Southern Ohio to Kandahar and back. From “Your soft boy head, earthy and damp, / nestled in the crook of my shoulder” to “Those times you are trip-wired, / in that space between breaths.” This book rings with specific truth. I want to give a copy to every parent with a child in the military, give a copy to every politician. Or simply ask them to pause and listen for the minute it takes to read the title poem, “Serving,” because it’s not possible to take that in with an open heart and come away unchanged.
-Laura Grace Weldon, Blackbird, Ohio Poet of the Year, 2019