Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004

Overview

Irene McKinney's work of three decades is represented here.  Her language is direct, vernacular, forceful, and unmistakeable.  These poems are directed to a listener, not overheard, in a tone and with a stance of honest intimacy.  These poems occur in the rhythm of speech, not of written discourse. From the beginning, McKinney has been aware of the modulations of the spoken voice, and much of the power of these poems derives from that awareness.  Her themes are the ancient ones:  ...

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Overview

Irene McKinney's work of three decades is represented here.  Her language is direct, vernacular, forceful, and unmistakeable.  These poems are directed to a listener, not overheard, in a tone and with a stance of honest intimacy.  These poems occur in the rhythm of speech, not of written discourse. From the beginning, McKinney has been aware of the modulations of the spoken voice, and much of the power of these poems derives from that awareness.  Her themes are the ancient ones:  connections with the land, with animals, with other people, with loss, with joy.  Her work should be seen in the context of such poets as Denise Levertov, Wislawa Symborska, or Ruth Stone, who worked in a tradition of independant spirit powered by clarity, compassion, and a willingness to take unpopular stances.  These poems are rooted in a consciousness that draws on a wide range of poetic and spirtual traditions, but there is a remarkable consistence of concerns over these three decades.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Irene McKinney’s Unthinkable: Selected Poems, is a daring, vital and wholly original collection that brings poems from all her previous books back into print.  The geography of these poems is rural, and she evokes that world brilliantly and totally unsentimentally in poem after poem and in a prose piece, “The Durrett Farm, West Virginia: A Map.”  The emotional territory of McKinney’s poems is otherness and its many guises.  Hermit-like, she invents both poems and someone to hear them, from the dark house of the body where “…the bud of the voice, has a chance.”  It is Irene McKinney’s great skill that, as we read these poems, we too become “other,” wherever we think we belong, and so experience through them the uneasy, holy strangeness of our brief time on earth. 

 

                                    -- Maggie Anderson

Irene McKinney’s Unthinkable, represents three decades of direct, forceful, vernacular, work addressed to us, her readers and listeners, in tones of deep, honest intimacy.  McKinney’s poems embody the rhythms of speech, not written discourse, and her themes are timeless: connection with the land, with seasons and animals, with people, with loss and grief and joy.  Like Wislawa Symborska or Ruth Stone, McKinney is an independent spirit powered by clarity and compassion.  Grounded in Appalachian history, geography, custom, her poems draw on a wide range of poetic and spiritual traditions and tell truths we immediately recognize as universal.  McKinney, a major American poet, is represented here in the breadth and depth of her achievement.  Unthinkable is a revelation.

-- Jayne Anne Phillips

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597090698
  • Publisher: Red Hen Press
  • Publication date: 2/15/2009
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,197,057
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

IRENE MCKINNEY is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and two West Virginia Commission on the Arts Fellowships in Poetry.  She is the author of five books of poetry:  THE GIRL WITH A STONE IN HER LAP (North Atlantic, 1976);  THE WASPS AT THE BLUE HEXAGONS (Chapbook, Small Plot Press, 1984); QUICK FIRE AND SLOW FIRE (North Atlantic, 1988); SIX O’CLOCK MINE REPORT ( University of Pittsburgh Press, 1989), and VIVID COMPANION (West Virginia University Press, 2005).  She edited the anthology BACKCOUNTRY:  CONTEMPORARY WRITING IN WEST VIRGINIA, and has held fellowships at McDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and Blue Mountain Center.  She was appointed Poet Laureate of West Virginia in 1994.  Recent poems are in AMERICAN VOICE, ARTFUL DODGE, ARTS & LETTERS, KENYON REVIEW, CONFLUENCE, SOUTH DAKOTA REVIEW, KESTREL, POETRY NORTHWEST, CLACKAMAS LITERARY REVIEW, GEORGIA REVIEW, WASHINGTON SQUARE, SHENANDOAH, SOUTHERN POETRY REVIEW, and others.  She has been writer-in- residence at Western Washington University at Bellingham, the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, University of California at Santa Cruz, and Hamilton College. She does a weekly commentary on National Public Radio.  Her poems have been featured three times on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, and on Verse Daily.  She is Professor Emerita of West Virginia Wesleyan College.

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