Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from the University Press of Kentucky

A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell

How does Next Door to the Dead connect to your previous collection, Seed across Snow, which also dealt with themes of loss and mortality? How does it differ?
I have to admit that unlike many of today’s writers who are taking on more global subjects, I seem to be completely obsessed with a mere square mile around my home. I tease and defend myself by purporting to be “Writing Local,” an idea I’ve stolen from the “Eat Local” movement. In that vein, the poems in Seed across Snow address a number of tragedies that occurred around our home, which local lore says, unbeknownst to us at the signing of the deed, is haunted. The buzz that our church-home is haunted comes mainly, I think, from our proximity to graveyard and also the train trestle where the infamous Goat Man of Pope Lick is said to lurk—Goat Man has his own Facebook page, by the way. I dismissed this matter as silly, of course, but in a period of a few years, our neighbor was struck by a car when crossing the road to her mailbox which sat right next to ours, two teen-aged boys were drowned in nearby Floyd’s Fork, other neighbors discovered a young woman who was severely wounded and thrown from a car into a ditch, a nearby house burned to the ground, and on and on. Maybe there was something to the haunting? Meditating on these tragedies reinvigorated old memories of family heartbreaks and I found myself writing about the convergence of the old and new haunts.
When I published that book, I thought okay I’m finished with this subject, but soon poems from Next Door to the Dead began knocking around in my head. I had no idea I’d write enough of them to make an entire book, but here it is. And, Next Door to the Dead, if anything, seems to narrow my real-estate even more. I haven’t found, though, that writing from a small place limits my subjects and themes. After all, Next Door to the Dead takes on war, love, death—and Colonel Sanders.


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