Kind by Gretchen Primack is a book for anyone concerned about the animal world and our place in it. For anyone who sometimes feels lonely for caring about that world.
This book is also for anyone who likes poems that attend to craft and consciousness. Here’s what Gretchen has to say about the new edition of Kind (Lantern Press, March 2, 2021)
“Several years ago, a book of my poems called Kind was published by tiny and mighty Post Traumatic Press. Two editions and four printings later, it’s now been republished in hardcover by Lantern Books. There are ten new poems, a foreword by the luminous Tim Seibles, and color art from three remarkable painters: Dana Ellyn, whose work is also featured on the new cover; Jane O’Hara; and Gus Mueller.”
. . . . . . . . .
Following are three poems from this collection:
Here was where
the bully could not reach.
Abraham was a rooster. He’d been made to fight. He was not a fighter.
He ended up in a basement with a “No one touch the killer!”
We brought him to the sanctuary. He loved peanut butter and jelly.
He loved laps and Linda’s pillow. He was not a fighter. He wanted
to be held by toddlers, Phi Beta Kappas, grievers and
socialists and pop stars. He wanted you to gentle his comb
between your forefinger and thumb. It was a smooth, warm piece of a
smooth, warm Abe, and it blushed bliss. It was tender
like someone who had been as unloved as a chicken
and then as loved as a chicken could be.
He grew old and full of love and died, rubbing his head back
and forth, back and forth against Linda’s arm. We planted
coxcomb, a growing glow.
If you permit
this evil, what is the good
of the good of your life?
The body floods with chemicals saying, Love this,
and she does, and births it; it is a boy
she begins to clean and nose, but he is dragged
away by his back feet. She will never touch him
again, though she hears him howl and calls back
Her breast milk is banked for others. Her son
is pulled away to lie in his box.
He will be packed for slaughter. How ingenious
we are! To make product from byproduct:
make use of the child,
kill and pack and truck him to plates.
And when the gallons slow, we start over,
and her body says, Love this! And she does,
though in a moment she will never touch
him again. His milk is not for him.
And when the milk slows too slow,
she will join him on the line, pounds
of ground. How we will dine!
And talk of our glossy dogs! Her body
will break up on our forks, as mothers
beg us for the grain we stuffed her with,
and children beg us for the water
scouring her blood from the factory walls.
And when her wastes and gases and panic
heat our air so hot our world stops
breathing—then will we stop?
Then will we grow kind,
let the air cool and mothers breathe?
So this is restriction, this pack of tastes,
the crisp and the dissolving,
the bowl of comfort and bowl of brace,
mashed and crunched, split and whole.
Zippers of wheat, bursting mango,
the tiny skin peeling from a bean,
a hundred plump grains and a hundred plump
nuts, the seeds, the geneses
of tall green stretches and fat green leaves.
That is what becomes my mouth
and body and my heart, and it is
my joy, and plenty.
Gretchen Primack is the author of Kind, republished by Lantern Books in 2021; Visiting Days (Willow Books Editors Select Series); and Doris’ Red Spaces (Mayapple Press). She also co-wrote, with Jenny Brown, the memoir The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals (Penguin Avery). Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, FIELD, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and other journals and anthologies. Primack has administrated and taught with college programs and poetry workshops in prison for many years, and she moonlights at The Golden Notebook Bookstore in Woodstock, NY. You’ll find her at Gretchen Primack.com.
Praise for Kind
Kind is a collection of poems that wants something from us, something troublesome but essential if we hope to be fully awake in our lives. These poems insist that we read with our eyes wide open—perhaps the way we walked into kindergarten—half-excited, half-scared by what we might come to see, to learn… The author understands that we must wrestle with the ideas that have bent the world and, finding our lives misshapen by its common cruelties, try to transform ourselves, so that we do not witlessly sustain a status quo that, ultimately, serves no one. — From the foreword by Tim Seibles
How often does one get starstruck by a poet? When I read Gretchen Primack’s poems I was starstruck instantly. How could someone crystallize my own feelings about animals and humanity so beautifully, so powerfully, and so poignantly? —Marisa Miller Wolfson
This book is essential reading. Read these poems and ponder their many questions, for example ‘Who are the beasts?’ and ‘What can I do?’ — Kazim Ali
It is this poet’s calling to hold kindness and its opposite in tension. With Gretchen Primack’s poems, lyrical language evokes a fierce and tender impatience with what should never have been settled for. —Carol J. Adams
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