by Bonnie Proudfoot
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Bonnie Proudfoot was born and raised in Queens, NY. She moved to the Appalachian region in 1979. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared in widely in journals. She received a Fellowship for the Arts from the WV Department of Culture and History. Her first novel, Goshen Road (Swallow Press, 2020) was longlisted for a PEN/Hemingway Award, and recognized by the Women’s National Book Association for its 2020 Great Group Reads. Household Gods is her first book of poetry. She lives in Athens, Ohio, with her songwriter husband, where she writes and creates artwork in glass.
Household Gods, Bonnie Proudfoot’s riveting first collection of poems, uses the lens of the speaker’s life to explore both personal and universal questions: How are we shaped by place, by family, by our particular time on this earth? What is our responsibility to witness and to act? It will be no surprise to readers of Proudfoot’s novel, Goshen Road, to find that setting plays a central role in these poems. This time, though, the primary setting is the poet’s first place; we inhabit the apartments, streets, even rooftops of Queens, NY, alongside the people, many long dead, who occupy them. “The past / is gaining ground, it’s snapping at her stamping heels,” Proudfoot writes in the opening poem. As readers, our present lives are all the richer for it.
––– Pauletta Hansel, Cincinnati Poet Laureate Emeritus
Take a Jewish family; populate it with grandmother, mom and dad, older sister, younger brother. Place them in Queens, New York. It’s the 1960s, so President Kennedy has been assassinated, the war in Vietnam rages. Then transport the sister into contemporary America, now in her sixties with grown children, where people like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd are killed for being Black. In such a world, “Forgiveness knocks like a beggar, / we have so much grief to offer, but it will not find its way in.” This is the world Bonnie Proudfoot evokes in her outstanding chapbook Household Gods, who teach “wisdom and anguish.” To be a girl was to find herself helpless to stop sexual assault; to be a woman was to have “A gold ring on one hand, / a mop in the other.” To be a man was to marry but to stand “in the doorway….OTB / tickets in his pocket, his / excuses like horses at / the gate, waiting for the bell.” Proudfoot handles forms powerfully—ghazal, pantoum, elegy—and her list poem “Saved” is brilliant.
––– Susan Shaw Sailer, The Distance Beyond Sight