Winner of the 2011 Sinclair Poetry Prize
Giving Them All Away by Kristin Laurel
Cover: James O’Connell
Kristin Laurel has a ton of lived experience and a heart sized to match, which is the only way you can make poetry from some of the desperate and extreme scenes she has encountered in her other lives as an ER nurse and mother. She has witnessed and coped with situations that would make the average middle-class poet faint dead away (the present writer included), and written unflinching, unforgettable poems about them. Unfailingly honest, brave, and life-affirming, Giving Them All Away announces the arrival of a wild, fearless, passionate, and generous talent. This book will burn itself on your memory. –Thomas R. Smith, author of Waking Before Dawn and The Foot of the Rainbow
Kristin Laurel, in the first full-length collection of her work, hands over the stories and images of her life with such intensity, and with such a matter-of-fact tone in her voice that we readers are swept into the book as if falling into a river of memories. We are carried downstream, beguiled by her powerful desire to write the tragedies, examine the decisions, celebrate the moments of calm and beauty, and most of all carried by the human wisdom in her words. I look forward to all the poems Kristin Laurel still has to write–I imagine great changes, great new subjects, new lenses she will see the world through, and I believe this book, Giving Them All Away, is the start of a remarkable career for this honest and honorable poet. –Deborah Keenan author of Willow Room, Green Door: New and Selected Poems
“A moment like this becomes extraordinary,/when I think of how easily/it could have been overlooked,” claims Kristin Laurel in her poem “Ordinary Bliss.” How lucky we are that Laurel refuses, over and over, to overlook the ordinary. This is a truly wonderful collection of poems that looks unflinchingly at the full spectrum of human pain and trauma, at the violence we do to ourselves and each other, and at the violence that the world inflicts on each and every one of us. What I admire above all is their tenderness and their hard-won humour: here is a poet who has seen—as mother, lover, ER nurse and survivor—the best and the worst we have to offer. To steal a phrase from Yeats, here is the world in all its “terrible beauty.” Here is a world of cut lilacs and metal, of broken minds and bodies, of bullets and vomit and “unhindered sky.” These are poems that resist easy redemption or absolution. Instead, they present the complex reality of what it means to be human, and they implore and challenge us, in their refusal to turn away, to stay human and to live with compassion. — Jude Nutter, author of I Wish I Had A Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman and The Curator of Silence.
In Giving Them All Away, Kristin Laurel “grabs us and squeezes our hearts.” Her language is physical, fearless—intensely personal. Her gaze, intelligent and direct, does not flinch, does not turn away, and in her poetry shows us the “ordinary bliss” in the chaos of trauma care, single motherhood, and maze of family history and relationships. In her compassion and advocacy for the “broken-winged angels” in life, demands and inspires us not to turn away.
Kristin is “out practicing love for all to see,” with courage and humor. Kristin’s is a voice I never tire of, I double-dare you to pick up this book, read it, savor every word. –Leslie Matton-Flynn, editor and book designer, Cup and Spiral Books, Minneapolis, MN