To Kathleen McGookey, poetry is “a way to pay attention. Very close attention. To the smallest detail, the smallest moment.”
Primarily a writer of prose poetry (poetry without line breaks), McGookey has been writing poems since her days in a study abroad program in Paris, France, as a college student. An ocean away from her home and native culture, McGookey felt keenly connected to her own language while immersed in learning French.
“Even though I was pretty fluent in French, I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say,” says McGookey. “I found myself, while writing in my journal in English, really loving that ability to be articulate and expressing myself fully. I remember the experience of standing in a bookstore—I think it was Shakespeare & Co.—and reading a book in English and feeling so connected to the writer.”
That joy in connection has been McGookey’s driving motivation ever since. Her fondest moments now are readers contacting her or coming up to her after a reading to let her know that they have also felt that special connection while reading her poetry.
McGookey’s newest published work is a chapbook called Mended, published by Kattywompus Press (2014). Other publications include Whatever Shines; October Again; and At the Zoo. McGookey has also translated French poet Georges Godeau’s book We’ll See.
In Mended, McGookey says she worked through the grief and sorrow she experienced after losing both parents in close succession.
Widely published in journals and anthologies, McGookey does frequent readings — not only in the traditional academic and literary circles but also in places like first-grade classrooms. She even reads poems to her mail carrier.
“The level of enthusiasm is different with a class of first graders,” McGookey says. “I read them a poem called ‘Sweater Weather,’ and they loved it. They burst out laughing and asked me to read it again and again. That’s a very responsive audience!”
McGookey also enjoys the willingness of children to give poetry a try as listeners, readers, and writers, without the inhibitions adults often acquire over years.
An alumna of Western Michigan University and Hope College, McGookey has taught at both as well as at Interlochen Center for the Arts. She also runs a private writing workshop at Kazoo Books. She lives in Middleville, Michigan, with her husband and two children.