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Genius loci. The pervading spirit of a place. This book from Lynnell Edwards is all about the spirit of a very specific place, in this case the environs of central Kentucky, and she writes about this place in two very different times, in two very different styles. So different, in fact, that one might first wonder what the two parts of the book have in common. The answer, of course, is genius loci.

The violence of history, and the beauty and peace of nature. Edwards understands that both are present in the story of Kentucky, and of our nation as a whole, and she expresses both eloquently through the poetry here. Her love of this place is palpable, but it is no naïve love. She knows what it has cost, and she knows that it is fragile. Like the ancient limestone palisades along the Kentucky River, she words serve as a “record of what our great green Earth once was, and where, if we can keep it, we might still find our place.”

One of poetry’s oldest purposes is to tell the story of the tribe. The story of the struggle for 18th century Kentucky is one of violence and sacrifice: land-grabbing schemes, broken treaties, a child’s body committed to the water, heroic rescues, a massacre averted. Lynnell Edwards skillfully layers incidents from this turbulent past upon her own childhood’s “summer days snug / and certain in the great green valley” that was once a place of so much hardship. This Great Green Valley is a fine chapter in that story.

—Joe Survant, former Kentucky Poetry Laureate

In these poems, Lynnell Edwards lights a path through the “great green” wilderness of Kentucky across the centuries. By weaving folklore with archive, and pastoral landscape with personal lyric, Edwards reckons with the seeming contradictions of history. These brave poems face the confounding tangle of desire, visionary imagination, and, yes, violence that characterized Kentucky's frontier era, ending with a moving meditation on one poet's relationship to a single river. In language of warning and wonder, Edwards invites us to think, in complex ways, about the “fossil bed[s] and shale flint[s]” we call home.

—Kiki Petrosino, author of White Blood: a Lyric of Virginia


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