In her fourth book of poems, Kay Mullen explores the meaning of home from the viewpoint of a challenging childhood and youth, then as an adult and beyond. She finds a home in genuine relationships, in the woods and the world of nature. The author discovers a sense of home through travel where differences in people and customs create bonds of belonging.
What reviewers are saying about Homecoming
Just as the figure in “Up Close” exhibits an “essence of honesty / in simple and complex ways of seeing” so that “everything / observed enlarges perception,” Kay Mullen produces impressive poetry in Homecoming that expands readers’ appreciation of the world around them. She displays the precise eye for specifics a naturalist might envy, and her painterly descriptive power rivals that of the “Sidewalk Artist” who engages observers with “the pleasure of swirls and shades, shadows / and hues, stroke on stroke to completion.” Indeed, like the “Ahimsa Women” whose message about “hope / for the future” she admires, Mullen’s poems filled with such exquisite lyrical language will encourage all to “honor their words.”
Homecoming is a moving, sometimes heartbreaking search for home and belonging. Kay Mullen’s poems act as prisms—they take the white light of yearning and bend it into a rainbow of bell-struck moments. Seen from a doorway into an austere childhood, “what passes through may not/ be light. Silence/ may cloak a room.” From a pond’s edge late in life, “The sun slowly spreads day over the surface,/ a seam sewn between opposites, dark underworld,/ light separations.” There is so much care taken in these beautiful poems, they ask the reader to take care too, and then: “In a breath, the whole appears/ out of nowhere.”
These are hushed yet galvanized poems, adding to the irony of words explaining silence, for who can translate woodsmoke or read in a root cellar? Soon words fill a room with a frightening dark. Dictating the singular language of the natural world, Kay Mullen prefers the outside, where “even pebbles have something to say in silence.”
A review of Homecoming by Janet McCann, Professor Emerita of the English Department at Texas A & M University has been accepted by Valparaiso Poetry Review for the fall 2019-2020 issue. Kay's poem, "If I Could," will also appear in the same issue. Please look for both online this fall.
Homecoming book review by A. Regina Schulte, MA, PH.D., CORPUS REPORTS, Autumn, 2019
The concept of “home” can be at once geographical, biological, and historical. Over time, it may even evolve into a mythical place that, for many persons, offers comfort, welcome, and a sense of belonging. In this collection of poems, author Kay Mullen not only deftly weaves these strands together, but she embroiders them with her fine descriptions of flora and fauna. Lest readers expect otherwise, it should be stated that her memories are low on nostalgia; they are revealed in clear, matter-of-fact language. Mullen’s appreciation of the natural world is akin to that of Mary Oliver (whom she mentions). Even though there is an aura of Mary Oliver’s writings wafting throughout many of these poems, Mullen clearly owns her own material and writing style. From her creative imagination readers are treated to small metaphorical delights that are “spot on;” e.g., dandelion seeds become bee parasols; crows and black grackles perched on telephone wires become notes on a musical staff. Many, if not most, CORPUS members will resonate with Mullens’ memories of her younger life, e.g., the pedal-powered Singer sewing machine; washday with its galvanized tubs and wooden clothespins in a cloth bag; potatoes baked in the embers of burning autumn leaves. One can open this book at random and find keen insights offered in a comfortable, poetic cadence on any page. To this reviewer, it would seem mildly akin to sacrilege, to breeze through the book and then shelve it as “finished.” The poems deserve thoughtful reading and rereading—even study, in a few places —to wring out the sentiments and emotions they carry!
Excerpts from Homecoming
From Summer Storm.
..."Rain sheets the window. I close the drapes as if I could
blanket the noise, as if shards of lightning would cease to brighten
the walls and bounce from the mirror."
From As if We'd Walked Through Fire Together.
..."My sister's features brighten in the sun's slant as if wanting to
know what she didn't when she was alive as if wanting to share,
eager to listen now that secrets no longer exist."
from Wood Path
..."Two bucks....follow the doe to low hanging leaves of honey locust.
They work their way along the salal shrubs, leave oleander
and lamb's ear untouched."
from An Dinh Palace
..."Hundreds of years have passed since the halls were filled
with monarchs and nobles while peasants dined from bamboo
plates, cups of tin and spoons."
Kay Mullen spent the majority of her adult life teaching grade school
children. After receiving a Master of Education from Seattle University,
she became an elementary school counselor where she worked with
children, parents and school personnel to set the stage for success not
only in grade school but also in later school and adult life. After her work
in the schools, she became a certified mental health counselor.
Kay later earned a Master of Fine Arts from Pacific Lutheran University
with a focus on poetry. She received a First Place in the Washington State
William Stafford Award and was a Best of the Net nominee as well as
a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee.
Her poems have appeared in numerous journals including Shark Reef, Crab Creek Review, Raven Chronicles as well as American Life in Poetry. Anthologies include Beginnings: What Makes a Woman, edited by Jill McCabe Johnson, and Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose About Alzheimer's Disease, edited by Holly Hughes.
Her more current work includes teaching poetry skills at Catherine Place,
a center for women in Tacoma, Washington that fosters lifelong learning
and leadership skills. In 2016, Kay edited an anthology of poems by
Catherine Place poets: Women Writing: On the Edge of Dark and Light.
Over the years, she has offered poetry workshops to various groups including
both men and women in prison and those in transition.
Looking back on her writing she states: “I realize I intuitively strove to follow
my birth mother’s music and artistic gifts somehow weaving them into my
poems. My mother left me a legacy I discovered long after her death. She
has become alive again in my poetry.”
by Kay Mullen
is now available for purchase.
Homecoming can be purchased from your independent bookseller for $15 Signed copies can be bought directly from Kay at her readings or sent to you by mail for the cost of the book. It is also available on Amazon.
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