In her powerful new collection, Sarah Kennedy draws on the historical record, as well her personal life, to explore relationships and bodies, both physical and textual. Kennedy underscores human frailty in poems that dramatize the lives of British women who kept recipe manuscripts containing both medicinal and culinary "receipts" during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These women often recorded their frustrations and triumphs as both doctors and household managers for their families, and their trials with illness, childbearing, and aging resonate with contemporary poems about the vulnerabilities of the body in our "enlightened" age of science. Throughout, war looms at the margins, as the characters struggle to stay alive and stay together in troubled times. From the seventeenth-century Irish servant Mary Carryll to a contemporary care-giver for a cancer patient, these women leave traces of themselves in diaries, letters, and stories that mark their dedication to the healthy, working body and mind as a source of human dignity. They also share an impulse to find order and beauty in the physical and emotional "home remedies" of herbs, food, and love, even when larger forces work to break the generational cycle through which mothers teach their daughters. Exploring modern-day problems ranging from strained familial relationships to an individual's struggle to find her place in the world, Kennedy's powerful collection reveals our new century's intricate connections to the past.
Sarah Kennedy is the author of five poetry books, including A Witch's Dictionary and Consider the Lilies. An associate professor of English at Mary Baldwin College, she lives in Rockbridge County, Virginia, with her husband.
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