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A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen,
Winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award
by Kari Gunter-Seymour
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Gunter-Seymour is a ninth generation Appalachian and editor the Women of Appalachia Project™ anthologies, “Women Speak,” volumes 1-6 and “Essentially Athens Ohio,” an anthology focused on landmarks, tales and experiences of those living in or deeply connected to Athens county. She holds a B.F.A. in graphic design and an M.A. in commercial photography and is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. A poem she wrote in support of families living in poverty in Athens County, OH, went viral and has been seen by over 100,000 people, resulting in thousands of dollars donated to her local food pantry.
Her work was selected by former US Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey to be included in the PBS American Portrait crowdsourced poem, Remix: For My People. Her poetry appears in several publications including, The NY Times, Verse Daily, Rattle, Crab Orchard Review, Main Street Rag, Stirring, Still, CALYX and The LA Times. Her chapbook “Serving” is available from Crisis Chronicles Press. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. She teaches a monthly workshop series and has worked with incarcerated men, women, teens, and women in recovery housing.
Her award winning photography has been published nationally in The Sun Magazine, Light Journal, Looking at Appalachia, Storm Cellar Quarterly, Anthology of Appalachian Writers, Vine Leaves Journal and Appalachian Review.
Gunter-Seymour is the founder/executive director of the “Women of Appalachia Project,” an arts organization she created to address discrimination directed at women from the Appalachian region by encouraging participation from women artists (spoken word and fine art ) of diverse backgrounds, ages and experiences to come together, embrace the stereotype, show the whole woman; beyond the superficial factors people use to judge her. (www.womenofappalachia.com).
ABOUT THE BOOK
In a time of inflated posturing and relentless self-promotion, Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poems offer quiet intensity. Her work provides a refuge where one’s curiosity, intelligence, and awareness of the complexities of contemporary Appalachian female culture and the struggle to hold on to “old ways” while embracing the new, take shape. The work is firmly and unapologetically attached to the poet’s home soil.
More than merely commenting, Gunter-Seymour’s work searches for meaning. It takes readers outside and indoors, into the world and into bodies and minds, a foray into the tangled bonds of family, weighted with memories. Her work speaks to a knowing that as the threads of our lives unravel, so too, gifts materialize. Here, relationship issues, trauma and disappointment are transformed into a journey of revelation, a testament to the complexity and power of love even as it contends with circumstances beyond its control.
Each poem is earthy and rich, filled with imagery, exploring beyond the boundaries of feminism, science, and spirituality. There is specific cultural musicality of language and line, a strong sense of observation, giving readers a renewed sense of understanding and discovery of today’s Appalachian woman.
Read reviews: Ohioana Quarterly.
KariGunter-Seymour’s new collection, A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, is a timeless array of poems that invites the reader to traverse memories that feel as sacred as scripture. The collection is stunning in its ability to elevate memory and hold singular experiences aloft for perusal. In concert, the poems read like a carefully preserved palimpsest, layered cohesively, suggesting there’s always more where that came from. Not a single poem is negligible. This is an airtight intersection of family and kinship, and through Gunter-Seymour’s meticulous model, we are asked to consider what we, too, have inherited from the land as much as from our people, and how any, many ways, “Everything alive aches for more.” -Bianca X, Affrilachian Poet, Author of Black Mermaid
“Generations pass and still we toil/scratch at scars, lose track of the path home” Kari Gunter-Seymour writes in her poignant new collection A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen .These searing poems, however, have no trouble tracing the path to the ground of the poet’s making—her childhood home—and to her mother and father, unforgettable, as flesh, ghost and memory. These poems feel necessary and real and stark as the Appalachian Mountains themselves. -Rita Sims Quillen, author of Wayland and The Mad Farmer’s Wife
In A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, Kari Gunter-Seymour writes with clear, evocative language as she weaves stories of her people, especially the strong women in her life who are portrayed honestly and with compassion. She takes us along on an intergenerational journey through roles as daughter, granddaughter, mother, grandmother, all closely connected to those who came before and those yet to return home. These vivid poems, deeply rooted in place and nature, are filled with images of a life spent in northern Appalachia. Gunter-Seymour writes of planting by the signs and the music of Hank and Dolly, but moves onto contemporary themes like border walls and legacies of war. In these poems, the past meshes with the present, and provides solid footing to face the future. -Jayne Moore Waldrop, author of Retracing My Steps.
SOUTHERN LITERATURE REVIEW:
REVIEWS ON AMAZON:
This stunning collection of poetry cuts through the stereotypes of Appalachia and of Appalachian women and reveals the depth of commitment to family, culture, and history that is inherent to her people and to the the work of Kari Gunter-Seymour. Her insightful, often raw, words capture the truth of growing up and living in places others overlook or think about in only general terms. Gunter-Seymour makes the soul of this region transcendent in a way never before captured with such sensitivity. “Hooper Ridge Girl” is memory raised to the level of prayer: “You more beauty than could be held/ in something as soft as a body.” This is but one example of how this poet’s work and keen eye speak to readers everywhere of what she knows and captures so beautifully.
Who hasn’t scratched at the question of what it means to be here? Kari Gunther-Seymour asks in the last line of “The Weeds in This Garden,” one of the poems in an amazing collection. These poems scratch, reach, demand that we find answers to that question of self via the magic and songs of our grandmothers. Via the hot breath of poverty. The hurt and promise of coal. The pleasing and apologies and losses and reckonings of our pasts. Via loving to the bone and five bourbons on a night of being just so alive. Amazing is an inadequate word for A Place so Deep Inside American It Can’t be Seen. I read this book three times and then longed for each poem all over again.
How to write about a place that is gone? Kari Gunter-Seymour hits this spot on in her book “A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen.”
Gone are the magics and songs,
all the things our grandmothers buried-
piles of feathers and angel bones. . .
My grandfather was a coal miner, and a big part of my childhood was watching the family homeplace in West Virginia disappear. These poems speak to the loss and grief that are woven into anyone who mourns a place that is no longer there.
These poems also do what I admire most–speak the truth without flinching. They are brave in expressing family secrets, trauma, and endurance. The lines are approachable and beautifully crafted.
All this, and the book takes on the complexity of Appalachia with keen insight and compassion. I highly recommend adding this one to your top shelf of poetry collections.
I promised myself and others that I would just lay low for awhile, but my mind was in conflict and turmoil. I was having a crisis of faith and couldn’t sleep. So, I was up at 4:30 AM reading “A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Scene” by Kari Gunter-Seymour. I did not expect to see so much of myself and my own story in her poems. The poems in the book are emotional, passionate, and sometimes overwhelming in their beauty. After reading the book, my mind and soul were calmed, and I was able to go back to sleep to dream of being able someday to write as well.
An absolutely beautiful, moving story of the strength of women holding one another’s hands through the generations. I read it straight through in one sitting–something I seldom do. I will return to this one often for solace and for pleasure.
The real deal, Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poems feel specifically honest, are accessible and trace a life that sound like someone any of us might know. I bought two copies, one as a gift for my best friend’s birthday, and one for myself. After reading this collection, I still keep it close by on my nightstand, as if to be near a friend who has told us her deepest thoughts. Buy this book for yourself and for your own best friends. Congratulations, Kari, on this collection and on being declared the state of Ohio’s Poet Laureate.
Kari’s latest book of poetry is served straight up, at times chilling me to my core, then warming my bones-she captures what it means to honor the integrity of our roots without stifling our own growth. It made me laugh, cry and smile-sometimes in the same poem. My only qualm was that it was not longer. It leaves us ready and in need of her next collection.
With clear-eyed truth Kari brings Appalachian life unapologetically to the reader. Laugh, cry or just walk with the people that inhabit her life. Her authentic poetic voice captures our essence and makes me proud to be from the mountains.