© 2022 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

'How To Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons)': Barbara Kingsolver's Passion For Poetry Shines In Latest Collection

Ways To Subscribe
Barbara Kingsolver author photo_PC Evan Kafka.JPG
Evan Kafka

Barbara Kingsolver has been on the literary scene for decades, perennially wowing readers with novels like The Poisonwood Bible and Unsheltered. Her first book of poetry was published early in her writing career, in 1992, and she soon focused on novels and works of nonfiction. Now at last she again trains her powers of observation and writing to a new collection of poetry. How to Fly (In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons).

Highlights from the Interview with Barbara Kingsolver

HowToFly hc c.JPG

On shifting to publishing a collection of poetry though she is known for her novels:

I am not mostly known as a poet. I'm mainly known as a novelist, but I've always written poems. Poetry was the first form that I took seriously as a writer in my 20s when I began to take my own writing seriously. But I discovered nobody pays you much to write poetry and yet I could make my living as a novelist, and so novels became my day job. That's how I've supported my family for 30 years. And poetry was always sort of a passion project, the thing that I read and wrote purely for myself. You might be able to tell that because these poems are more personal and more intimate, I would say, than most of what I've written before, but was it time? Yes. Something about the last few years, the sort of strangeness and scariness of the world and what it's becoming moved me towards relying more on poetry, both as a reader and a writer. And so I wrote a good deal more poetry in the last three or four years. And it occurred to me that maybe my readers felt the same way, that this would be kind of a relief package I could send into the world because I think there's something so comforting about poetry.

On the way poetry helped her recognize all that we have during these challenging times:

It's so much a part of the human condition to bemoan what we don't have, and especially right now. … There's such wonder in what we still can do. And I find so much grace in so many parts of my life, even if it has been constrained. I find so much joy, just looking at the trees outside my window and thinking about how, even though this is a really bad year for humans, the trees are doing fine. I live in Southern Appalachia where the trees are doing fine. They're not on fire as they are out West. But I mean, there's so many parts of the world, so many species that are still going on, just fine, and there's so much that we can take from them and learn from them.

On how poetry can unite us — and the hope that this collection will, too:

I hope that it's a timely release and that it will bring people comfort. I think there's something really special about poetry, especially in times when we're more and more divided, more and more polarized and clinging to different versions of the story of what really is and what is important. I think that what's lovely about poetry is it backs up and can remind us of the things that we all feel together. It can reengage us with the human condition. We all experience grief. You know, we all experience wonder, and to just kind of get back in touch with what we all have in common? I hope to offer people that communion.

Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.