Friday, September 25, 2015
Book Review: Next Door To The Dead by Kathleen Driskell
Cemetery poetry may be an odd concept for mainstay readers, but for those of us who are “tombstone tourists,” this genre offers a refreshing look into our clandestine indulgences and interests.
Next Door To The Dead is Kathleen Driskell’s latest book; one I found to be irresistible. It takes an understanding of the taboos associated with writing about death, along with true empathy and respect for those living and dead to write poems brimming with thoughtfulness, heartbreak and humor. Driskell introduces us to her “neighbors” in a very matter-of-fact way because after 20 years of living next door to the cemetery, they are indeed the neighbors she’s gotten to know.
Driskell does what many of us do, wanders the cemetery in search of solace, solitude, and stories that may or may not be true, but her offerings tug at our heartstrings just the same. The poem Infant Girl Smithfield leaves the reader aching to comfort a stillborn child while the waiting tension in What Haunts is something most of us have felt when viewing the desecration cemetery vandals have left behind.
We listen in to Tchaenhotep, an Egyptian mummy whose every-day existence was thwarted in death by an odd fame; she is now on display in a local museum.
In Lament for the Crow, Driskell bids us to pause beside her, considering the demise of a crow and the affect it has among his resident flock.
The author is an expert at unraveling the secrets and stories buried in the local graveyard, and by invoking the voices of the dead, she shares her personal folklore about them in prose that will return to haunt you as you meander through a graveyard.
Next Door To The Dead will entice those who have no interest in cemeteries to hesitantly tag along, and in the process, captivate their imaginations. Taphophiles will find the fact that Driscoll can put into words those thoughts we’ve all had while searching and reflecting in a quiet cemetery, extraordinary. And most tombstone tourists will agree, that is both enlightening, and enchanting.
Kathleen Driskell is associate editor of the Louisville Review and professor of creative writing at Spalding University, where she also helps direct the low-residency MFA in Writing program. She is the author of numerous books and collections, including Laughing Sickness and Seed across Snow.
Next Door To The Dead by Kathleen Driscoll
Published by University Press of Kentucky (2015)