In Catching Light, Kathryn Stripling Byer searches for the language of aging, for a way of confronting every woman’s fear of looking in the mirror and seeing an old woman staring back. Inspired by a series of photographs entitled “Evelyn”—which depicts a former artist’s model in her declining years, still full of life and facing death with flair and wit—Byer finds a voice to contemplate the enigmatic but inevitable process of growing old.
Byer opens her book with a ten-poem sequence, In the Photograph Gallery.“‘Who is she?’ / a child hanging on to her mother’s skirt / asks, as if she is frightened / by what she sees. ‘Just a little old lady,’ / her mother soothes / ‘That’s all she is.’” By placing Evelyn herself in the gallery to respond to the photos, and hear that exchange, Byer opens the door into the inner life of this “little old lady.”
Part Two moves into more personal, mythological territory as the images of Evelyn and the poet’s own recollections coalesce. The final section draws closer to Evelyn’s dark hour, her humor in the face of death, her memories, her acknowledgment of her sexuality, her letting go.
Catching Lightis a profound inquiry into aging and how one remarkable woman faces it, sings to it, mocks it, rebels against it, and ultimately embraces it.
A native of Georgia, Kathryn Stripling Byer has lived in the western North Carolina mountains since receiving a graduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied with Allen Tate, Robert Watson, and Fred Chappell. Her several books of poetry have received honors from the Associated Writing Programs, the Academy of American Poets, the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance.
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