Next Door to the Dead: More Q & A from University Press of Kentucky
A Conversation with Kathleen Driskell
The speaker in this collection gives voice to a diverse cross-section of people—from Tchaenhotep, a mummified Egyptian woman, to a Civil War infantryman. Which, of all of these, was the most fun to imagine? Which was the most difficult?
Tchaenhotep was the most fun, and at the same time, the most difficult to imagine. I began my relationship with her years ago after accompanying my children on grade school field trips to the Louisville Science Center. Like a lot of people, I am fascinated with ancient burial rites of queens and kings; however, it wasn’t until I read that Tchaenhotep was not a royal, but rather a middle-class housewife that I became totally smitten with her. Her ordinary life made me feel that we had something in common and that I might be able to enter her character. I have loved wondering why her husband would have gone to the great expense of embalming her and thinking about her floating out of the downtown Louisville library, where she was kept for many years, during the Great Flood of 1937. On the other hand, she lived thousands of years ago in a completely different culture, and those are vast challenges to overcome when trying to embody a persona. The best indication of my difficulty in writing about her is the fact I thought about her for years before I believed myself ready to write a poem about her.