Kate Shunney’s poetry finds meaning in daily lives
When I asked Kate Shunney to write for The Morgan Messenger six years ago, I knew she was an excellent writer.
What I didn’t completely understand then was the way that, like all fine writers, she can put pieces of real life into words that convey great meaning.
She did this last summer in a series of Messenger articles about the heroin epidemic locally. Beginning with a tragic death from an overdose, she broadened the story to show where the heroin comes from and the need for drug rehabilitation here.
Now, Shunney is showing off another talent with Parade Of Our Everyday, her first book of poems. Don’t let the word “poems” put you off. Each of the three dozen pieces is a distillation of her experience and thoughts.
Many of the poems have their roots right here in Morgan County. Shunney grew up in Great Cacapon and Berkeley Springs, and you can’t miss the local flavor of poems about hog slaughtering and mountain floods.
“What The River Carried Away” is about the river somewhat changing course after the 1985 Flood, and how people “talk about where trees and islands used to be.” Reading it, I remembered that my grandfather always claimed the Potomac’s path was changed by the 1936 Flood.
Another of her word pictures describes a trip through the Paw Paw Tunnel, where “a misty fog at the mouth of the tunnel curled like a horror-film warning.”
Several of the poems were inspired by her early work life – pieces set in movie theaters (she helped at The Star when she was young), in a greenhouse where she worked in the early 1990s after college, and in France where she was briefly a nanny in 1993.
Another group of poems are set in Ireland, a country dear to her heart. The first of her five visits there was as part of a Berkeley Springs basketball team in 1987. The latest was on her honeymoon.
The painting on the cover of Parade Of Our Everyday is by Irish artist Deirdre Keohane and is an impressionistic picture of a woman hanging clothes outside a country house.
Shunney says the clothesline image “sealed the deal” since the closing poem, “Our Sun-Dried History,” conjures up memories associated with clothes on a line – “a parade of our everyday.”
“Hanging laundry on a line can be drudgery, but each piece of clothing also tells a story about the wearer — so that a full clothesline can be the story of a marriage or a family,” Shunney says.
Whether she’s writing about Great Cacapon or Dublin. there is always that sense of being grounded in a place and time and looking for the meaning of it all.
“What I hope someone might get from the poems in this book is the feeling that
their everyday life is filled with moments that are worth paying attention to. Even in the tiring work of chopping wood, there’s a chance to recognize the powerful growth of nature and how our human history depends on it,” she says.
“Caring for children, going broke, being lonely or disappointed — that’s the stuff of poetry, too. Which means there are bits of poetry in everyone’s day, every day. That’s the parade. We’re all in it, whether we write it down or not,” Shunney says.
Meet the poet
You can meet the poet and hear her read
some of her work at a book launch party at
the Fairfax Coffee House in Berkeley Springs from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Thursday evening, March 4.
Of course, books will be available for sale, and she’ll sign them, too.