This book cannot be returned.
Poetry. Genius loci. The pervading spirit of a place. This little book from Lynnell Edwards is all about the spirit of a very specific place, in this case the environs of central Kentucky, and she writes about this place in two very different times, in two very different styles. So different, in fact, that one might first wonder what the two parts of the book have in common. The answer, of course, is genius loci. In the original Roman use of the term, spirit meant the protective deity of a place. And in pioneer Kentucky, a place that Edwards's McAfee ancestors helped to settle, that deity could be cruel. The historical narrative poems in the first part of the book recount many instances of hardship and violence, both as experienced by white settlers, and as dealt by them upon the Native Americans from whom they conquered this place. So harsh a place, in fact, that Governor Patrick Henry (when this land was still part of Virginia) begged his own sister, Pray don't go to Kentuckie to live. But many did, and endured.
In the more contemporary sense, spirit means the unique sense and feel of a place, and in the second part of this book Edwards captures that spirit through her lyrical recollections of boating on the Kentucky River with her family, in her childhood, when she could imagine herself a mermaid, my hair loosed / and living as tall field grass / drifting in the summer air, / white hands luminous / and slow, parting / the water below, open eyes / peering / into silence, the dark distance. In effect she becomes, in this moment at least, the spirit of the place. A part of its deep past. The violence of history, and the beauty and peace of nature. Edwards understands that both are present in the story of Kentucky, and of our nation as a whole, and she expresses both eloquently through the poetry here. Her love of this place is palpable, but it is no naive love. She knows what it has cost, and she knows that it is fragile. Like the ancient limestone palisades along the Kentucky River, her words serve as a record of what our great green Earth once was, and where, if we can keep it, we might still find our place.