Friday, January 17, 2020

Poem366: “Spiritual Midwifery” by Kathleen Kirk

Spiritual Midwifery by Kathleen Kirk

Spiritual Midwifery by Kathleen Kirk, St. Paul, Minnesota: Red Bird Chapbooks, 2019

Kathleen Kirk’s chapbook Spiritual Midwifery is small in page count, but it packs a punch, with each poem contributing to a lush and well-developed whole.

The title of the book reflects the many poems about motherhood, whether the mother in question is the close, personal voice of “I” or the Madonna. “My Daughter at the Piano” is a bit of an outlier in a collection, as it is a small poem about a specific mother-moment, as the speaker teaches her daughter to play. The mother asks if the daughter if she would like to learn a new song …

… but you are smiling now
apple in hand.
“Only on the black keys,”
you answer. “I like them best.”
Together we play the dark
harmonies of earth.

Actually, that final, ethereal sentence is not an outlier. The collection offers many moments where normal moments, particularly mother-moments, are laced with otherworldliness.

In addition to conventional motherhood, the title also refers to the broader act of creation, and most of the poems in the collection are ekphrastic examples, for which readers are encouraged to look up the original paintings. Some examples of paintings that gave rise to these poems include The Rest on the Flight Into Egypt by Caravaggio, La Fruitière by Childe Hassam, Blue Penumbra by Mark Rothko and more.

I particularly love the intimacy between a woman and Death, who visits her, in the poem “Angel of Death,” based on the 1890 Evelyn de Morgan painting by the same name. Death has a beautiful, androgynous face, and leans in toward a woman in the painting, who raises her head to him. Writes Kirk of Death’s scythe,

                              … will you
cut off my long hair with it

and scatter the strands upon the earth
before we leave it, for the birds
to weave into their nests?

There are so many breathtakingly beautiful moments in this brief collection, her eighth chapbook. I find that I’d like to read a full-length collection from this talent. Here’s hoping one is in the works.


  1. Thank you so much for reading and writing about my chapbook! You comments mean so much to me, and it's lovely to learn what moved you.

    1. I really loved your book! Thanks for your words. :)