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About this poet

James Kimbrell was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1967. He earned an MFA from the University of Virginia and a PhD from the University of Missouri, Columbia, where he was awarded two Academy of American Poets Prizes. In 1993 he received a Ruth Lilly Poetry Fellowship, followed by the “Discovery”/ The Nation Award in 1997. His debut collection, The Gatehouse Heaven, was selected by Charles Wright as the winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize and published by Sarabande Books in 1998.

He is also the author of Smote (Sarabande Books, 2015), My Psychic (Sarabande Books, 2006) and Three Poets of Modern Korea: Yi Sang, Hahm Dong-Seon and Choi Young-Mi, which he co-translated with Yu Jung-Yul (Sarabande Books, 2002). The author Robert Olen Butler noted that Smote “is a book of the dark reality of our daily existence; it is a book of abiding grace.”

He is also the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Whiting Writers’ Award. He currently teaches in the creative writing program at Florida State University and lives in Tallahassee, Florida.


Selected Bibliography

Smote (Sarabande Books, 2015)
My Psychic (Sarabande Books, 2006)
Three Poets of Modern Korea: Yi Sang, Hahm Dong-Seon and Choi Young-Mi (Sarabande Books, 2002)
The Gatehouse Heaven  (Sarabande Books, 1998)
 

Elegy for My Mother's Ex-Boyfriend

Let it be said
that Tim's year was divided
into two seasons: sneakers
and flip-flops. Let us
remember that Tim
would sometimes throw a football
with all the requisite grip, angle
and spiral-talk. Let us recall
that for the sake of what was left
of appearances, my mother
never once let him sleep
in her bed; he snored all over
our dog-chewed couch, and in
the mornings when I tip-toed
past him on my way
to school, his jowls
fat as a catcher's mitt, I never cracked
an empty bottle across that space
where his front teeth
rotted out. Nor did I touch
a struck match to that mole
by his lip, whiskery dot that—he 
believed—made him irresistable
to all lovelorn women.
Still, let us remember
sweetness: Tim lying face down,
Mom popping the zits
that dotted his broad, sun-spotted back,
which, though obviously
gross, gets the January photo
in my personal wall calendar
of what love should be,
if such a calendar
could still exist above my kitchen table
junked up with the heretos and
therefores from my
last divorce.
              Let us not forget
how my mother would slip
into her red cocktail dress
and Tim would say,
"Your mother is beautiful,"
before getting up
to go dance with someone else.
              In fairness, let me
confess that I pedaled
my ten-speed
across the Leaf River bridge
all the way to Tim's
other woman's house
and lay with that woman's daughter
beside the moon-
cold weight
of the propane tank, dumb
with liquor, numb to
the fire ants that we spread
our blanket over until
I stopped for a second
and looked up
because I wondered if
her mother could hear us,
or if Tim might not
have stood in the kitchen,
maybe looked out
the window and saw
my white ass pumping
in the moonlight,
and whispered
to himself, "That's my boy."

"Elegy for My Mother's Ex-Boyfriend" from Smote. Copyright © 2015 by James Kimbrell. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Sarabande Books, www.sarabandebooks.org.

"Elegy for My Mother's Ex-Boyfriend" from Smote. Copyright © 2015 by James Kimbrell. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Sarabande Books, www.sarabandebooks.org.

James Kimbrell

James Kimbrell was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1967.

by this poet

poem

has a giant hand
          diagrammed in front of her place
on West Tennessee.
          It towers above a kudzu hill as if
     to offer a cosmic How!
               as in Hello! from a long
way off, as in how

she already knows
          the sundry screwed up ways