Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick

Our Held Animal Breath by Kathryn Kirkpatrick
Published: September 2012 by WordTech Communications
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours in exchange for this review

Publisher's Summary: 
Our Held Animal Breath is a collection of poems grappling with the failure of human political and social structures to effectively address the dilemmas of our crucial historical moment. Registering an eco-feminist consciousness, the narrators of these poems expose the intertwined vulnerabilities of women, animals, and the land to masculinist agendas of mastering nature for profit.  

My Thoughts:
During last years' Bloggiesta, I had the pleasure of interviewing Serena of Savvy Wit and Verse Serena is the host of the Dive Into Poetry Challenge and the Virtual Poetry Circle. Talking with her reminded me of how much I used to enjoy poetry and pointed up how little of it I pick up these days. So when I was offered the chance to read and review Our Held Animal Breath, I didn't hesitate in saying "yes."

In Our Held Animal Breath, Kirkpatrick's poems are divided into three sections. In the first section, Kirkpatrick uses her poetry to skewer mankind for crimes against nature, animals and women. In the second section, Kirkpatrick takes a more personal turn, primarily dealing with loss and friendship. Finally, Kirkpatrick offers some hope, an out if you will, for mankind.

I often forget, when I haven't read any poetry for a while, how deeply personal it can be. By the end of  the first section, Kirkpatrick has made her opinions about war, the environment, the treatment of animals being raised for consumption and the misuse of our natural resources abundantly clear. "At The Turkey Farm" is quite difficult to read:

"When we eat them do we take in their longing 
for the unentered meadow, their sadness
for the sky they cannot fly into?
Perhaps we become them, soldered to brutal
twilight as their suffered bodies enter our own."
In "How To Lose A Democracy" Kirkpatrick addresses the effects of commercialism and human self-centeredness.

"First, believe you can have
whatever you want,
whenever you want it."
I enjoyed the variety of styles in Our Held Animal Breath and the range of emotions. It is certainly a thought-provoking collection and, quite against my usual rule against such a thing, I've made notes on almost half of the poems. I'm not sure that I would pick up another collection of Kirkpatrick's poems; while these certainly made me think, they didn't speak to me in the way that other poetry does.

For other opinions, check out the full tour. About Kathryn Kirkpatrick: Raised in the nomadic subculture of the U.S. military, Kathryn Kirkpatrick was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and grew up in the Phillipines, Germany, Texas and the Carolinas. Today she lives with her husband, Will, and their two shelties in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, and she currently holds a dual appointment at Appalachian State University as a Professor in the English Department and the Sustainable Development Program. She has a Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Emory University, where she received an Academy of American Poets poetry prize. 


  1. Thought-provoking is a good word for this book! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  2. I honestly never give poetry a real chance! I'm always afraid that I'm going to feel very dumb!