Saturday, June 24, 2023

Q&A with Kimberly Kralowec




Kimberly Kralowec is the author of the new poetry collection The Saplings Think of Us as Young. She also has written the chapbook We retreat into the stillness of our own bones. Also a lawyer, she lives in San Francisco.


Q: Over how long a period did you write the poems in your new collection?


A: The collection has been a long-term labor of love. The earliest poems were written about nine years ago, and the most recent are from last summer, so about eight years total.


During that time, I was busy with a demanding day job, and there were many long gaps between periods of writing. Over time, I’ve come to trust that even after fallow periods, more poems will eventually emerge, and the newer poems may have a different feel compared to earlier work, in a good way!


The collection reflects an evolution in my style from shorter lyrics to longer, more narrative works. Ordering and melding the earlier and newer poems into a coherent collection was an intense and fun project. Many teachers and workshop mates provided invaluable encouragement and feedback over the years.


Q: How was the book’s title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title is a line from my poem “The Cities Have No Use for Seasons.” This poem meditates on climate change and our collective lack of control over so much that happens in life.


A few years ago, my husband was unexpectedly diagnosed with a serious illness, and many of the poems express aspects of my experience as a caregiver. For me, the “us” in the title, and in many of the poems in the collection, is both the intimate “us” and the collective “we.”

I’ve consciously embraced the pathetic fallacy as a way to convey feelings of deep time and perhaps shift the reader’s perspective, if only for a moment. I hope to impart a strong sense of empathy with the denizens of the natural world, who surround us even in dense urban areas like San Francisco.


Q: The author Sean Singer said of the book, “The voice in The Saplings Think of Us as Young is a Cassandra—she is a prophet and a careful observer of the climate emergency.” What do you think of that description?


A: Sean’s generous endorsement feels very true and allows me to hope I’ve succeeded in communicating what it’s like to observe some of the changes in the natural world that are overtaking us, both individually and collectively.


Q: Another reader, author Jay Deshpande, said, “Kimberly Kralowec’s poems haunt in the best of ways, moving through the loved and marked spaces of our lives. The voice is rhapsodic, songlike, but never lulling: at any moment, the torsions of her syntax may pull you into their undertow.” How does that strike you?


A: It’s wonderful to hear Jay’s kind words. I worked so hard on every line, attempting to make it as resonant as possible. It is so true that our intimate spaces can feel both “loved and marked,” and this is a large part of what I wanted to express in my poetry.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’ll be participating in the West Trestle Review reading series on July 1 in Auburn, California, and I’ll be a speaker on the first books panel at the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference in early August. I’m looking forward to sharing my path to publication, the main takeaway from which is that you never know what connections journal editors might have.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You can read more of my work on my website and I also have a newsletter with infrequent updates on readings and publications. Many of my earlier, short lyrics are collected in a chapbook, We retreat into the stillness of our own bones (Tolsun Books, 2022). Thank you for inviting me to participate in your interview series!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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