Kari Gunter-Seymour is an inspiration to me and to many others. Although my personal relationship with her has been rocky at times, due to our different communication styles, I dearly love her as a person and have the utmost respect and admiration for her as an advocate for Appalachia in general and Appalachian women in particular.
I first read “A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen” at 4:30 in the morning when I was having a crisis of faith and my mind was in conflict and turmoil. After reading the book that morning, my mind and soul were calmed, and I was able to go back to sleep. I am going through a similar time right now, so I decided to read Kari’s book again, and I was able to find a similar sense of peace and comfort in her poems.
Kari Gunter-Seymour is a ninth generation Appalachian and the founder and executive director of the “Women of Appalachia Project” (www.womenofappalachia.com). Kari is also the editor of the Women Speak anthology series and Essentially Athens Ohio; Athens, Ohio Poet Laureate Emeritus; and the current Poet Laureate of Ohio.
I have had the privilege of hearing Kari read some of the poems in her book, which I believe make the words on the page come alive and become more meaningful. You can hear and actually feel how the poet envisioned the poem in her mind as it was written. I also think that poetry becomes much more meaningful and relatable when we see so much of ourselves and our own stories in the poems, which was a surprise as I read Kari’s collection.
The poems in the book are emotional, passionate, and sometimes sensuous and overwhelming in their beauty. Some of the poems that I especially related to were “Hank Williams’ Last Ride,” “Pack Horse Librarians,” “Perfect Pitch,” “Pain Ripened,” and “Trigger Warning.” Hank Williams’ Last Ride” could have been written about my own daddy. One of the things that I made sure that I took from his house after he passed away was his Hank William’s Greatest Hits record, which I have not played since he died. Maybe today. I am also married to a retired librarian, so “Pack Horse Librarians” was particularly meaningful and led to more reading on the subject.
On a deep emotional level and as a person who has spent a lifetime battling guilt and depression, I related to “Trigger Warning,” most especially the lines:
"We don’t get to choose our memories,
they are triggered.
Guilt comes the same way,
unreeling from our darkest places
the awful wait for the agonal breath."
I was also struck by the breath and richness of the language used in the poems. One such example can be found in the following lines from “Granddaughter”:
"I dreamed you slept with fawns
on a bed of pine straw, woke to doe’s
breath-nuzzles, a low cloud’s kiss."
I can never dream of reaching the heights that Kari has reached as a poet or of writing as well as she does. However, Kari is and will always remain an inspiration and a hero to me, and I highly recommend that you check out her work.
“A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen” is available at:
Barbara Marie Minney is a transgender woman, poet, writer, speaker, and quiet activist. She is a retired attorney and originally from West Virginia. Now based in Tallmadge, Ohio, her first collection of poetry entitled “If There’s No Heaven” was the winner of the 2020 Poetry Is Life Book Award and the Akron Beacon Journal Best Northeast Ohio Books 2020. It is available at www.poetryislifepublishig.com. Follow her at www.barbaramarieminneypoetry.com.