Day 2: A brain tumor diagnosis and the myth of Persephone come together in this poet’s mind

Each day leading up to the April 13 announcement of the Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today we feature 2013 Poetry Finalist:

Odessa by Patricia KirkpatrickOdessa by Patricia Kirkpatrick
Published by Milkweed Editions
Category Sponsor: Wellington Management, Inc.

A grim prognosis, brain cancer, leaves the speaker in Kirkpatrick’s Odessa fighting for her life. The tumor presses against her amygdalae, the “emotional core of the self,” and central to the process of memory. In poems emotionally charged but void of sentimentality, Kirkpatrick creates from loss a dreamlike reality. Odessa, “roof of the underworld,” a refuge at once real and imagined, resembles simultaneously the Midwestern prairie and a mythical god-inhabited city. In lines bearing shades of Classical heroism, Kirkpatrick delivers a personal narrative of stunning dimension.

Excerpt from “Near Odessa”

Near the end of summer.

Wheatfield with lark. With swift,

longspur, and sparrow. I see the birds

opening tails and wings

above grasses

and hidden nests.

Soybeans with bells, yellowing, green

tassels of corn, geese

again and again…

… Near Odessa

I come to a place where the end is beginning.

Where the light is absolute, it rises.

Patricia Kirkpatrick PhotoPatricia Kirkpatrick is the author of Century’s Road, as well as several chapbooks of poetry. Her work has appeared widely in journals including Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Threepenny Review, and Antioch Review, and in several anthologies, among them She Walks in Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems, edited by Caroline Kennedy. Kirkpatrick is a community editor and teacher with the Saint Paul Almanac, and she lives in Saint Paul.

For Odessa, Kirkpatrick was awarded the first annual Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, which champions emerging Midwestern poets.


“The verses in Odessa examine with unflinching, plainspoken lyricism those moments when one’s life trajectory is abruptly derailed and its course irrevocably altered.” — KnightArts

“The book offers no explicit answer to the questions it raises about the self. Perhaps what makes us is not answers, but the search and swirl around our “invisible / core” provoked by such questions.


Listen to the poet read from Odessa.

In the press:

Kirkpatrick wins Milkweed Edition’s 1st poetry prize, Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star Tribune, April 12, 2012

An interview in six questions with Patricia Kirkpatrick at Milkweed

Award winners will be announced at the 25th Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 13, 2013 at the Hilton Minneapolis. An author meet-and-greet and book signing reception precedes the awards ceremony, and the Epilogue after-party, sponsored by Tech Logic, includes complimentary champagne, desserts, and live music. Tickets on sale now. Click here for more information.

Have you read Odessa? What are your thoughts? We welcome your comments!

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Poetry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: