LSU Press Poetry Collection Wins Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Book Award
BATON ROUGE – “Descent,” by LSU Press poet Kathryn Stripling Byer, received the 2013 SIBA Book Award in poetry. The awards, presented by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, “recognize great books of southern origin.”
A native of Georgia, Byer has lived in the western North Carolina mountains since receiving a graduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she studied with Allen Tate, Robert Watson and Fred Chappell. Her several books of poetry have received honors from the Associated Writing Programs, the Academy of American Poets, and the Fellowship of Southern Writers. “Descent” is Byer’s sixth poetry collection.
Navigating the dangerous currents of family and race, “Descent” confronts the legacy of southern memory, where too often “it’s safer to stay blind.” Beginning with “Morning Train,” a response to Georgia blues musician Precious Bryant, Byer sings her way through a search for identity, recalling the hardscrabble lives of her family in the sequence “Drought Days,” and facing her inheritance as a white southern woman growing up amid racial division and violence. The poet encounters her own naive complicity in southern racism and challenges the narrative of her homeland, the “Gone with the Wind” mythology that still haunts the region. Ultimately, “Descent” creates a fragile reconciliation between past and present, calling over and over again to celebrate being, as in the book’s closing manifesto, “Here. Where I am.”