When Kathleen Driskell tells her husband that she's gone to visit the neighbors, she means something different than most. The noted poet—whose last book, Seed across Snow, was twice listed as a national bestseller by the Poetry Foundation—lives in an old country church just outside Louisville, Kentucky. Next door is an old graveyard that she was told had fallen out of use. In this marvelous new collection, this turns out not to be the case as the poet's fascination with the "neighbors" brings the burial ground back to life.
Driskell frequently strolls the cemetery grounds, imagining the lives and loves of those buried beside her property. These "neighbors," with burial dates as early as 1848, inspire poems that weave stories, real and imagined, from the epitaphs and unmarked graves. Shifting between perspectives, she embraces and inhabits the voices of those laid to rest while also describing the grounds, the man who mows around the markers, and even the flocks of black birds that hover above before settling amongst the gravestones.
Next Door to the Dead transcends time and place, linking the often disconnected worlds of the living and the deceased. Just as examining the tombstones forces the author to look more closely at her own life, Driskell's poems and their muses compel us to examine our own mortality, as well as how we impact the finite lives of those around us.
An astonishing collection, thoughtfully crafted and admirably honest, that makes us think about all the modes of knowing another person (and of not really knowing them).~Lisa Williams, 2nd and Church
Each poem in this collection is very carefully composed and fully realized—line by line and poem by poem, this is a satisfying book. One of the impressive features is how it works not simply as a collection of poems, but also as a whole book that deepens and expands with each page.~Maurice Manning, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Common Man
I've always loved Keats's phrase "the mighty dead," but I never understood it fully until I read Kathleen Driskell's quietly explosive meditations on life and death. There's a somber beauty to these poems; in them, the dead and living visit each other easily, singing of the rich mysteries on both sides of the divide.~David Kirby
Lorca said all art must be suffused with duende or the shadow of death, and for Kathleen Driskell her life is filled with the duende of living next to a graveyard and being reminded every time she looks out her window of that looming end. Children taken too soon, wives, soldiers, and those that are left behind—their stories are at the heart of living. These stark and moving poems give voice to our deepest mystery.~Barbara Hamby
With Next Door to the Dead, Kathleen Driskell has written her path to the Kentuckian sublime. And she has found her own access to the many ghosts of the south there, and has bodied those ghosts forth in poems that are heartbreaking, wary, and local in the best sense—she sees the world in the local, and communicates the world faithfully, one life at a time, giving a voice to everyone from a Egyptologist who has been abandoned in death by their soul, to Wanda, "who, were she still / living, might have said, / 'if I hadn't answered the call, / would I still be dead?'"~Shane McCrae, Spalding University and Oberlin College
The past, the present, the real, and the imagined all converge as Driskell explores the border between the living and the dead in this satisfying collection. Composed with both surprising humor and riveting profundity, her poems compel us to examine our own mortality, as well as how we impact the finite lives of those around us.~Broadwayworld.com
Strong on emotion and place. Stories, real and imagined, are suggested by facts chiseled into headstones and interwoven with contemporary lives.~Courier Journal
Beautifully arranged like a graveyard of monument stones, and sometimes like the flight pattern of a flock of birds in their seasonal migration, the poems have an unhurried, studied, and meticulous composition.~Literary Labors
A thoroughly engaging and surprisingly accessible book of poetry. As she imagines the lives of her dead-and-buried neighbors, she probes issues of mortality and the figurative path between her home and theirs.~LEO Weekly
Eloquent, graceful, vivifying.... Impressive collection.~Poet Apace blog
Through Driskill's imagination, the lives and afterlives of the deceased and their people come into vivid focus in this thought-provoking collection of poems in "Next Door to the Dead." Composed with both surprising humor and riveting profundity, her poems compel us to examine our own mortality, as well as how we impact the finite lives of those around us.~UKnow
Driskell's poetry is accessible and earthy and, as her poems have in the past, the words gave me pause to consider the beauty and nuance of language. Every word of this book felt like the thump of my heart. Her words brought people to life, gave substance to names and dates, and created a context around lives that had long since passed.~Kaylene Johnson blog
Each poem in this collection is very carefully composed and fully realized- line by line and poem by poem, this is a satisfying book. One of the impressive features is how it works not simply as a collection of poems, but also as a whole book that deepens and expands with each page.~Maurice Manning, 2nd and Church
- Judy Gaines Young Award