A discussion between poets GennaRose Nethercott and Mary Kovaleski Byrnes about the process, the art, and their new publications.
In the ingenious and vividly imagined narrative poem The Lumberjack’s Dove, GennaRose Nethercott describes a lumberjack who cuts his hand off with an axe—however, instead of merely being severed, the hand shapeshifts into a dove. Far from representing just an event of pain and loss in the body, this incident spirals outward to explore countless facets of being human, prompting profound reflections on sacrifice and longing, time and memory, and—finally—considering the act of storytelling itself. The lumberjack, his hand, and the axe that separated the two all become participants in the story, with unique perspectives to share and lessons to impart. “I taught your fathers how to love,” Axe says to the acorns and leaves around her. “I mean to be felled, sliced to lumber, & reassembled into a new body.”
Inflected with the uncanny enchantment of modern folklore and animated by the sly shifting of points-of-view, The Lumberjack’s Dove is wise, richly textured poetry from a boundlessly creative new voice.
So Long the Sky is an echo. A feeling that lingers between the past and the present. The motivation of a family history that spans decades and continents, and a history that moulds and remembers—where it has been, where it is going.
It is rare for a first book to have such range and depth—the trials of the immigrant; the paradoxes of romance and family life; the wrangling with saints as well as sinners—So Long the Sky is a beautifully written travelogue of the soul. — John Skoyles
GennaRose Nethercott’s book The Lumberjack’s Dove was selected by Louise Glück as a winner of the National Poetry Series for 2017. Her other recent projects include A Ghost of Water (an ekphrastic collaboration with printmaker Susan Osgood) and the narrative song collection Modern Ballads. Nethercott tours nationally and internationally composing poems-to-order for strangers on a 1952 Hermes Rocket typewriter.
Mary Kovaleski Byrnes' poems have appeared in Guernica, [PANK], Sugar House Review, Cimarron Review, The Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, Best of the Net, and elsewhere. She is co- founder of the EmersonWRITES program at Emerson College where she is a faculty member in the Writing, Literature & Publishing department.
“Serious art does not need to be weighty or explicitly topical. It can be, as it is here, apparently as light as a feather: The Lumberjack’s Dove is, in its manner, a folktale; it is also a meditation on attachment, on loss, on transformation.