January 6, 2021
My short story, “The Fish Pond,” was a finalist in the Doris Betts Fiction Prize.
July 11, 2020
“Chasing Light: A Burgert Brothers Anthology” is a wonderful collection featuring photos of Old Tampa partnered with poems written by Florida poets. My poem, “At Tampa University, After Her Funeral,” is included. My poem is dedicated to my sister, Susanne, who died in a plane crash September 14, 2008.
February 3, 2020
I’m pleased to announce that my collection of short stories, What Shadows Eat, was selected for the 2019 Cypress & Pine Fiction Series (Yellow Flag Press). Coming August 2020.
October 10, 2019
My novel, Peace River, is finished and I’m now looking for an agent.
NESSIE is the daughter of white settlers in frontier Florida in the era of the Seminole Wars. Growing up in a society torn by slavery, the dispossession of Native peoples and sharp limits on women’s choices, NESSIE herself is wrenched by repressed and overwhelming guilt rooted in past traumas and her current conflicting desires. Throughout, she struggles to see clearly the forces at work in her world and to find a way to live honorably in a society where enacting human decency exacts a terrible price.
Our story unfolds in two intertwined time sequences. As the adult NESSIE enters a personal crisis forcing her to make life-altering choices, she is overwhelmed with memories, clouded and fragmented. NESSIE’s crisis reaches an explosive point when she decides to reject ANDREW, the wealthy slaveowner to whom she has allowed herself to become engaged.
As NESSIE navigates this tumultuous set of choices, her memories persistently intrude, providing the alternate time sequence for our narrative. We learn that when she was nine, Seminole Indians raid their settlement and kill her aunt. For accidental reasons that are trivial to an adult, but overwhelming to a child, NESSIE blames herself for this death. Emotionally, she begins to shut down.
Several years later, BILLY, who has loved NESSIE since childhood, declares his intentions. Unconsciously, NESSIE believes that loving someone can lead to death, as it did with her aunt. To avoid this danger, NESSIE goes from Florida to Richmond to live with her wealthy grandmother and attend school. There she first meets ANDREW, who is taken with her wit and spirit, and who also sees that wedding her would help him gain access to old Richmond society.
Returning home to Florida, NESSIE begins a secret affair with ISAIAH, a preacher with a mysterious background, whose seductive words and physical grace rekindle NESSIE’s passions and allow her to feel life returning. However, ISAIAH is engaged to her older sister, BELLA. On the day that BELLA announces her wedding date, NESSIE takes her gun and goes to ISAIAH’s cabin, her intentions unclear even to herself. In a confrontation, NESSIE shoots ISAIAH, who has just told her that BELLA is pregnant. NESSIE blocks from her memory the details of this killing, which may, or may not, have been an accident.
When her grandmother dies, NESSIE goes back to Richmond, inheriting her grandmother’s property, including two young enslaved women, ELL and PAMELA. An ongoing battle ensues between ELL and NESSIE, in which ELL struggles for her freedom. NESSIE, exposed for the first time to anti-slavery ideas and beginning to see clearly the reality of relationships between slave and master, becomes increasingly ill-at-ease as a slaveowner and at the thought of entering Richmond’s society of plantation owners and slave traders. Nonetheless, she agrees to marry ANDREW; precisely because she does not love him, she unconsciously sees such a marriage as protection against her own repressed passions, which torment and threaten her.
Torn apart by these two warring impulses, NESSIE finally erupts when ANDREW’s brutality toward enslaved people becomes unavoidably clear to her. At this point our two narrative times fuse into one. In a flash of violence-induced clarity, NESSIE comes to see how she has misconstrued nearly all around her. She flees from ANDREW and his plantation. This act, which is a kind of self-emancipation, is closely linked to her decision to free ELL and PAMELA and to turn her back on the violence and hypocrisy of the slaveholding aristocracy and the whole slave system. She deeds her grandmother’s home to BELLA. Released from her guilt over ISAIAH, she returns to live in her native Florida. However, she knows her peace will remain incomplete until she mends her relationship with BILLY.
August 31, 2019
My poem, “At Tampa University, After Her Funeral,” is slated to appear in “Chasing Light: A Burgert Brothers Anthology.” This should be a wonderful collection featuring photos of Old Tampa partnered with poems written by Florida poets that reflect them. There should be a reading in Tampa after the holidays.
July 27, 2018
I’m thrilled to announce that Embark, an online journal, has published the opening pages of my novel (almost finished!), Peace River.
April 7, A Garden of Verses
Many wonderful So. California poets celebrate nature, art, and the environment at stations around the gardens. Stroll, hear some poetry, and visit the native plant nursery.
- Saturday, April 7, 2018
- 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM (I read at 12:30)
- Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
- 1500 N College Ave., Claremont, CA 91711
March 18, Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse
Poetry Reading with Kathleen Tyler & Charlotte Innes
March 7, Winter Park Public Library
Florida author Kathleen Tyler will read from and discuss her two books, “My Florida” and recently published “Open the Window and Drown” in front of the New Leaf Bookstore. Book signing and open mic poetry to follow. Contact author for open mic details at firstname.lastname@example.org(link sends e-mail).
January 30, Coffee Cartel
Please join me for a night of poetry.
Open mic before and after the feature.
Tuesday, January 30 at 8:10 PM
1820 S. Catalina Ave.
Redondo Beach 90277
Celebrate the publication of Kathleen Tyler’s new collection of poetry
Open the Window and Drown
(date to be announced)
1158 S Crescent Heights Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90035
Books will be available for purchase
(also available at amazon.com)
“The poems come together as abstract mosaics of language, gorgeous and dense. These are paintings in words, informed by a dazzling linguistic intelligence. If there is a mercy here beyond drowning, beyond the “elegant death camas,” it is in the work of language, in the poet’s job ‘to face always/ the wind.’ This extraordinary collection shows us a “heart that nothing gets past,” and a vocabulary of language that is redemptive in its brilliance.”
MY FLORIDA by Kathleen Tyler
Review by Karen J. Weyant
MY FLORIDA by Kathleen Tyler
The Backwaters Press 3502 North 52nd Street Omaha, Nebraska 68104-3506 ISBN: 978-0-9793934-6-4 70 pp., $16 www.thebackwaterspress.com
Palm trees swaying on sandy shorelines. Couples walking hand-in-hand into sunsets. College students going wild on spring break. Certainly, these images of Florida are often the first pictures that come to mind when we think of our Sunshine State. Kathleen Tyler’s My Florida, however, delivers a much darker landscape. Tyler’s first poem, “Ars Poetica,” is significant to this collection. While “an art of poetry” poem seems to be a somewhat predictable way to start any collection of poetry, Tyler’s carefully measured lines serve the collection as a strong introduction:
They came on suddenly, storms did,
when I was eight. All morning I swung
upside down from a rope, arcing over
the lake. Trees strung from clouds. Hair raking
water, just beyond the snapping turtle’s bite.
Although we don’t know it quite yet, these opening lines show us what we will expect in from her collection: characters living in darkness within reach of danger. We see a landscape that seems ready to swallow a child whole, a dark world which will make its appearance again and again, along with characters eerily reminiscent of those found in the works of Flannery O’Connor.
What follows this first poem is a collage of the poet’s world. Narratives abound in bizarre works such as “Car Advertising Alligator Farm,” while with other poems, such as “Blind Couple in Tampa City Square Hall,” photographs are used as springboards for other tales. Sometimes Tyler’s work explores more current events; sometimes her poems dive into the past. Through this mixed media we hear poetic narratives from edges of society, and, certainly, the edges of what we know—or what we think we know—about the Sunshine State.
At first, such a collection of different poetic form and voices may seem to be a bit jolting to the reader. After all, from the very first poem Tyler dispels the paradise myth of Florida. Furthermore, Tyler’s work is not a traditional narrative, but instead a portrait, with many different pieces. Some pieces tell a single story. For example, in “Killing the Lobster” we see a persona who acknowledges her own violent streak:
…The best way
is to stab it between the eyes, plunge
a knife deep into its head. When I do it, it doesn’t
die immediately, but twitches, the way sea
grass must have rolled and flexed
as the trap was lifted from the sea.
And in “Roadside Landscape,” we see a disturbing mix of familiarity, sex and violence as we listen to the story of a young girl’s dark encounter with a male neighbor:
Hands grown monstrous from driving fence poles all day,
every day, he lifted me by my ankles, nightgown a nylon
cloud around my ears. Freckled people, he said,
are often pretty. Shaking loose, I ran to the bathroom
to shower from my thighs oily thumb prints
already blooming into bruises.
Other works are more surreal. “Poem With Sharp, Little Teeth” is a poem about a poem, or more specifically a work of art described as a creature that leaves the narrator with “a body perforated with bite marks,” suggesting the cruel environment of this world. In “Fairy Tale 1,” we don’t see what most of us would associate with traditional fairy tales: the description of a heron feasting on “hatchling alligators” and a father who spends his evenings, “killing possums with a shovel.” In fact, this poem may be seen as more of a metaphor for all living creatures who surrender themselves to the fate of death, especially when the poet tells us that the baby possums “playing dead” know somehow that “their time has come.”
But perhaps the most intriguing poems are those based after a series of photographs by Walker Evans, who is perhaps best known for his work capturing images of this country’s Great Depression. A short exploration of Evans, however, reveals that he also spent some time in Florida, photographing those who lived on the fringes of Florida’s more well-known world. Tyler uses several of Evans photographs as springboards for stories. For example, in “Photograph of Trailer in Camp Sarasota, 1944,” a woman explains that “back then, to be half Seminole/ was worse than being full black…” In “Ruin, Tabbey Construction, 1941,” a young girl tells stories of her past by describing her environment:
of cockroaches left homeless
clicking down the night
hall. I slept in the bathtub, sheet
spread edge to edge. They found me
anyway, papery wings shuddering
against my cheek.
Whatever voice comes through Tyler’s poems, whether it is the voice of a child, or a mother, or a loved one from the past, the pictures are clear in their sensory details. You will feel the thick heat of the south, you will taste the sour drops of booze, and you will hear the birds, the insects, the snakes. This collection is, as Tyler’s title reveals, My Florida, and while the poems may not necessarily be the welcome mat that most of us would expect to see for one of our most popular states, they are an invitation to a world we all should see.
Karen J. Weyant is a 2007 Fellow in poetry from the New York Foundation for the Arts and her most recent work can be seen in Slipstream, The ComstockReview and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. She has work forthcoming in Pennsylvania English and The Minnesota Review. She teaches at Jamestown Community College in Jamestown, New York.