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Winner of the 2023 Gatewood Prize.
A blind daughter has a complicated relationship with her chronically ill mother and then must face her mother’s death under troubling circumstances. To counterbalance its heavy subject matter, the reader is located in the natural world at many points in the book, whether it be rural eastern Pennsylvania or a meadow in Central Georgia. A narrative in three parts, the book begins by inserting the audience into the middle of the action, close to the time of the mother’s death. Section Two returns to the speaker’s childhood and builds the foundation for the relationship with the mother—the reader gets the backstory. In Section Three we get the speaker’s attempts to work through the mother’s death, ultimately arriving at the beginning of a resolution. Though narrative in its arc, the poems in the book are not straightforward, instead using a variety of forms and a style that could be called lyrically experimental. Much of the story-in-verse is told in the surreal language of dreams that the speaker has immediately before and then after the death of her mother.
Poetry. Family & Relationships.
"In EARTHWORK, Jill Khoury plunges us into the heartbreak of caregiving, maternal relationships, disability and abusive dismissal. Khoury's Plathesque battle tones, brilliant formalism, and attention to a white hot star of pain show the speaker taken apart and reassembled in multiple gazes including her/their own. This book's theme of paradoxical seeing and unseeing within family, their ferocious recollection will, in turn, unshackle the reader."
—Cynthia Arrieu-King, 2023 Gatewood Prize judge
Jill Khoury (she/her) is a disabled poet and mixed media artist. She is a Western Pennsylvania Writing Project fellow and has taught poetry in high school, university, and enrichment settings. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University and edits Rogue Agent, a journal of embodied poetry and art. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including Copper Nickel, CALYX, Lunch Ticket, and diode, with artwork appearing in Brevity and Killjoy. She has written two chapbooks-Borrowed Bodies (Finishing Line Press, 2009) and Chance Operations (Paper Nautilus, 2016). Her debut full-length collection, Suites for the Modern Dancer (2016), was released from Sundress Publications.