Blood Feather (Paperback)
Poetry. An actress. A thinker. A filmmaker. Built of archives and the imagination, the three fictive women narrating BLOOD FEATHER articulate a feminist philosophy of art-making and life-making for our fractured world. Kelsey engages the given by calling on female artists of the past-Lilian Gish, Maya Deren, Maria Tallchief, and the architect Eileen Gray, among others-to join this drama of character and form. Here, structures of the past and ambitions for our future shape BLOOD FEATHER'S personae as they confirm and resist, collude with and attempt to reinvent, the cultural and personal histories that surround them.
About the Author
Karla Kelsey’s poetry and prose weave together the lyric with philosophy and history. She is the author of five full-length books, most recently Blood Feather (Tupelo, 2020), and a book of speculative essays, Of Sphere (Essay Press, 2017). Poems and prose have appeared in journals such as Bomb, Fence, Conjunctions, New American Writing, The Boston Review, The Colorado Review, The Denver Quarterly, Verse, and Tupelo Quarterly. Her critical essays on poetry, poetics, and pedagogy have appeared in anthologies and literary journals. From 2010-2017 she edited The Constant Critic, Fence Books’ online journal of poetry reviews. With Aaron McCollough she currently co-publishes SplitLevel Texts, a press specializing in book-length hybrid genre projects. A recipient of a Fulbright Scholars grant, she has taught in Budapest, Hungary, and is Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University’s Writers Institute.
“Flat-out brilliant. Its wit and intelligence glance out everywhere. Smooth taffy enjambments pull the reader, the syntax, and wobbly configurations of meaning into the next line and the next with intoxicating enthusiasm. At the same time, deftly orchestrated sound patterns charm the lineal interiors. Throughout this long poem, seemingly familiar diction and grammar comes spiked with word substitutions so startling, they suspend our semantic links and subvert snatches of narrative. In fact, the whole poem seems to be constructed on a tonal framework of transilient melodic improvisations. And yet ‘SestinaLA’ is definitively a philosophical poem concerned with the nature of identity and with the proposition that ‘it is impossible/ to distinguish one self from another.’ What makes the poem so exceptional is that its theme is developed with such vivid formalism (since, as the poet writes, a ‘thing is always determined by its/ function’) in shifting fields of music and language where restless subjects shimmer into and out of view.’”
— Forrest Gander, Judge’s citation for the Poetry Society of America’s Cecil Hemley Memorial award
“It’s easy for a poet to become enamored by the form her own intelligence might take—those poems of brilliant sequins and brittle shallows. But it is intelligence of a different order, one more complex and more miraculous, for the mind to be possessed by the form of an intelligence not wholly its own—and the poems that result are genial because they are of genius, generous because some fertile force springs through the weave entire. Karla Kelsey’s Blood Feather will prove itself to its lucky readers as a primary example of the latter poetry. And as the title might suggest, that vital blood in the shaft of the feathers of the molting bird, some livid force wends it way through the myriad cares this book is possessed by: self’s performance of self, love’s performance of intimate other, architecture, agriculture, art, history, the dance that is dance, and the dance that is life. The sestina’s sinuous and fated returns course throughout the warp and weft of Blood Feather, giving us the surprise of any thought’s eternal returns, demonstrating the complex joy of life revealed as repetition’s bewildered form. That bewilderment is wild and it is also wise, as are these poems, needed reminder that we are not authors simply of our own lives, but our lives are something else—a voice that becomes a mind, a mind that suffers the feathers it grows before it takes flight.”
— Dan Beachy-Quick