EastOver Press is proud to announce the upcoming publication of Dirt Songs, a collection of poems by Kari Gunter-Seymour.
In her third full-length collection, Gunter-Seymour’s poems are full-throated, raw, deceptively simple, and rippling with candor, providing readers an insider’s lens into the larger questions surrounding the many aspects of Appalachian culture, including identity, the impact of poverty, generational afflictions, and the brunt of mainstream America’s skewed regard for the region.
Readers will discover a musicality of language, a stoic sense of honor, a richly detailed tapestry of experiences, and an inspiring display of humility and courage. Throughout the book there is an overarching determination to endure, to be the last truth teller left standing, arm raised in solidarity with the land and its people. Dirt Songs does what journalists and mainstream media have failed to do: provide a uniquely intimate look at landscape and family generated from within Appalachia, recognizing that one story cannot accurately represent a region or its people.
“‘Those last afternoons we walked the tracks hand in hand, / making up songs, going nowhere.'” These final lines of ‘Photo 1985’ are two of many that will haunt me long after reading Kari Gunter-Seymour’s new book, a collection alive with lust, music, lost boys, lost dogs, food pantries, divorce, deployment, booze, birds, and love for a land buzzing with abundance. I admire the swagger and wisdom of this voice and the raw tenderness with which the poet greets her subjects, here and gone, present and past. A celebration and a dirge, Dirt Songs is a moving tribute to a place and its people.” —Kathy Fagan, author of Bad Hobby
“The poems in this exuberant and loving book arise from a time in late-20th century America that was not so loving, dissolved and diluted, as some of us who lived in smaller places began to feel isolated and abandoned by bigger culture and a bigger economy. It was a deeply confusing time. Those of us who lived in smaller and less enlightened communities were lured to believe there was something bigger and brighter we should belong to, and the actual communities in which we lived were somehow lacking. Other forces were at work as well, and only now, after many years of collapse, can we realize the ruse to which out of the way places were subjected. And yet, the spirit and wisdom of the local sense of belonging remains. The stark and often darkly funny poems in this collection suggest a re-direction is in order. It’s a sense of return, and I find the poems here offer a loving and hopeful suggestion that such a return is possible. This is a book of many things, small and large, but it always tells its reader that poetry in its most honest rendering, is always a way forward. This is a book to celebrate and be glad we have it with us.” —Maurice Manning, author of Railsplitter
“These poems made me cry as they sang to me, like a grandparent singing hymns from another room. Bring your ‘sack of sorrows/ laid open-perch on soil’ with this storyteller, and find in these Dirt Songs, ‘a litany to hold off morning.'” —Joy Priest, author of Horsepower
“Gunter-Seymour has spun an absolute marvel in her new poetry collection Dirt Songs…These poems both delight and displace. To hear one of Gunter-Seymour’s dirt songs is to listen, intently, to the symphony of the human condition.” —Jacinda Townsend, author of Mother Country
Gunter-Seymour is the Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her poetry collections include Alone in the House of My Heart (Ohio University Swallow Press, 2022) and A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen (Sheila-Na-Gig Editions, 2020), winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award. A ninth-generation Appalachian, she is the editor of I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, funded by the Academy of American Poets and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Women of Appalachia Project’s anthology series Women Speak. Gunter-Seymour is a retired instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, an artist in residence for Writing the Land, and a Pillars of Prosperity Fellow for the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio. Her work has been featured at About Place Journal, New Ohio Review, Rattle, Verse Daily, World Literature Today, The New York Times, and Poem-a-Day.