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Red Appetite

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Red Appetite by Karen Kilcup

Winner of the 2022 Helen Kay Chapbook Contest

Karen Kilcup’s Red Appetite

Cover: R.P. Thrall, Minnie From the Outskirts of Village, 1876. Oil on canvas, 26 7/8 x 21 7/8 in. Collection of Shelburne Museum, museum purchase. 1960-233. Photography by Andy Duback.

Red Appetite by Karen Kilcup

In this beautifully crafted collection of poems, Karen Kilcup writes about how isolation due to covid brought nature to our doors, examining human kindness and cruelty as it encroaches. In “Squunck” the skunk observes us as well. “I live / in open air, uncontained / by the doors like coffin lids / that suffocate you inside /your fancy boxes.” Kilcup also laments isolation. In “On Not Being Touched” she writes, “I envy the river rocks / for the water / curling over / their backs.” In “Belgian Mare and Foal” Kilcup celebrates a birth. “A flurry of legs / the pour of a creamy tail, / the flash of a russet back. / The mare observes, and nods.” I am enamored of Karen Kilcup’s work and am honored to have had the chance to publish two of the poems from this collection. —Lee (Lori) Desrosiers, author of The Philosopher’s Daughter, Sometimes I Hear the Clock Speak, and Keeping Planes in the Air, and publisher of Naugatuck River Review and Wordpeace


All too often we humans are guilty of a “habit of not seeing what’s there,” as Karen Kilcup claims in her poem “The Sixth Cat.” But in these poems, she pays attention. Red Appetite is filled with close looks at the myriad of creatures that share our planet, from the tiny water striders that “cannot see / the quick shadow / that glides beneath / the river’s lucent skin, / the gulf that lies / below” to the bobcat, the “graceful spotted ghost,” that “leaves behind a chill that never / eases.” From a deep observation of the small lives we often glimpse in our wild and more-domesticated spaces, these poems deftly straddle a first-time gardener’s fierce frustration with the wild pillagers that seek the same bitter greens in spring as we do, and the often humorous empathy for those small lives we too often overlook. —Kathy Solomon, author of Tempting Fate


Red Appetite is a taxonomy of the joy and quirks of animals that live around us, haunted all the while by death and the COVID lockdown. In these tight, lyrical poems, mortality hunts the speaker like the bobcat that stalks the barnyard and the woodchuck that undermines the garden. These poems echo Maxine Kumin’s ethical introspection while others hint at the starkness of Robinson Jeffers’ animal poems. The music here allows the reader a taste of the sublime in the midst of a world that is always falling and rising:

The neighbor’s ornamental cherry tree / sags with blooms. Too soon,

they’ll wash the dark ground / with pink, soft underfoot, as if

someone holding her breath / exhaled

Red Appetite is a focused meditation on how we are reflected in these animals, both domesticated like the barnyard cat or mare, and more wild like the possum, junco, and bobcat. Kilcup’s collection is a nuanced read that leads one to rejoice in spring and reflect that new life is due only to the coldness brought by winter. —Gregory Byrd, author of The Name for the God Who Speaks, winner of the 2018 Robert Phillips Prize

Read on Scribd RED-APPETITE-by-Karen-Kilcup

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