by Susan O’Dell Underwood
Finalist for the 2022 Arthur Smith Poetry Prize
ISBN: 978-1-956440-29-4 paperback $18.95
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On a collective level, the human diaspora is incalculable. Our leaving and resettling are as ancient as we are, whether immigrant, refugee, exile, or pioneer. In Splinter, Susan O’Dell Underwood’s poems trace the unique experiences of the Appalachian diaspora. Splinter suggests the deep ambivalence in the breaking away, a sundering which can never be mended. These poems test the emotional spectrum, weighing the joyful possibilities and sorrows of leaving against the obligation of those who stay “home,” grateful yet bereft in an altered place.
What people are saying about Splinter:
Susan O’Dell Underwood’s poetry shares a deep understanding of the signs and symbols of Appalachian life in the twenty-first century, how our voices change from one situation to the next and, as happens in “Assimilation,” the dread we feel at being asked, “Where in the hell are you from?” Art and the feeling of lived experience converge through ingenious allusions to Allen Ginsberg in “Holler” and Tillie Olsen in “I Stand Here Frying Okra.” Underwood’s vision is unfailingly wise and expansive, and the joy and laughter in these poems provide a counterweight to the knowledge that so many loved people are gone and not returning. Splinter offers readers an irresistible music of time and place, of “Exile,” where each of us comes into our own being: “We bloomed out of the barn loft’s hay mow / like one-at-a-time petals dropping.”
—Jesse Graves, author of Merciful Days and
Said-Songs: Essays on Poetry and Place
“Everybody lived closer to the ground then,” says Susan O’Dell Underwood at the beginning of Splinter, her rich evocation of Appalachia—the land, the people, the animals—and the changes that occur as its sons and daughters leave to find different lives, but who cannot forget that fireflies were once lightning bugs and cicadas were jarflies. Beauty and darkness are woven throughout these pages, and they will leave you with a moving portrait of a place forever changed.
—Barbara Hamby, author of Bird Odyssey and
On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems
Susan O’Dell Underwood is a native of East Tennessee, where she has lived most of her life. She’s the director of creative writing at Carson-Newman University. She has published one earlier collection, The Book of Awe (Iris Press, 2018), a novel, Genesis Road (Madville Publishing, 2022), and two chapbooks. Her poems and fiction have appeared in journals and anthologies such as A Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Oxford American, Alaska Quarterly Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and Still: The Journal.