A Garden in Kentucky
by Jane Gentry
From the jacket of the 1995 first edition (Louisiana State University Press):
In this collection Jane Gentry evokes, in images as haunting as the Kentucky landscape, a garden thriving with the flowers of memory, a physical world that reflects a realm of transcendence. Cosmic harmony reveals itself in the ciphers of roots and worms, in a piece of blue-willow chinaa blaze of balance, of wholenessthat survives a fire in which a lonely, tormented cousin died.
Like John Donne and Elizabeth Bishop, Gentry finds beauty, grandeur, and the suggestion of immortality in the smallest, most evanescent of details. A mothers clothes. Scents. Textures. The play of moonlight on rock. The chirp of crickets. A faded tintype of a great-grandfathers dog. The wedding of a drum majorette. A glimpse caught through an open door of a naked woman ironing. A scarecrow. The smell of Bible leather. Laundry drying on a clothesline.
Stark, lovely, elegiac, gently surreal, Gentrys poems resonate and echo in the vast spaces of the heart. A Garden in Kentucky is a place of mystery, terror, beauty, and wonder, a garden to which readers will find themselves returning again and again.
Jane Gentry is associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky.
Rooted in the soil of a place that has borne the lives of generations of a Kentucky family, these poems are about soil: the dirt these people farmed, built houses on, left to their children, the dirt that is still there when the houses disappear, the dirt to which we all return. It is about blood, toothe blood of birth, of life coursing through us, blood as the element of joy, warmth, voluptuousness and also as the token of our great vulnerability. In language both restrained and sensual, in complex, exact images, these poems enact grief and love and the daily movements toward revelation within a life lived deeply, in a place the author knows in her bones.
Mary Ann Taylor-Hall