What the Body Already Knows
Winner of the Finishing Line Press New Women's Voices Chapbook Prize
In this award-winning, debut chapbook, K.E. Ogden turns our gaze to mapping grief as a transformative journey of resilience. These are songs of devotion to mud, bird shit, dead bodies, hot biscuits, a cat's torn ear, shovels, and sawdust. Each poem translates tragedy into gateways for metamorphosis, inviting readers to make new worlds in changed landscapes, to see beauty in dark, shark-infested waters, and to find elation and joy in being alive.
"K.E. Ogdens stunning chapbook, "What the Body Already Knows," is a journey through grief for a father who "hung the sun" and a troubled mother who lives in memory as "fingerprints in the tops of all those biscuits." Every poem is rooted in the world of the body -- of those we love, of the earth, and of the sea, where the poet surprises herself by 'singing underwater," a perfect metaphor for what Ogden's poetry accomplishes: a music all her own, rising, above all odds, from sorrow's depths."
---Rebecca McClanahan, author of In the Key of New York City and The Tribal Knot
"Every once in a precious while, a book comes into my life that shakes me out of my long days and worries, one that offers me honesty and real connection to its author. K.E. Ogden's new collection of poetry, What the Body Already Knows, is exactly that kind of book. These poems provide an atlas of loss, both to it and away from it, line by line. Whether telling the story of a mother lost in her sleep, a day lost to rumination over the corpse of a deer, or an entire year lost to loss itself, these poems show a way through it all. Yes, there is pain here, and fear, hospital rooms, and heavy memories from hard days, but these poems are much more than specimens lined up as examples of troubles in a drawer. They are alive, and colorful, and covered in all manner of beauty to render life's real value."
--- Jack B. Bedell, author of Color All Maps New, Poet Laureate, State of Louisiana, 2017-2019.
"K.E. Ogden's What the Body Already Knows begins with a father highlighting for his daughter the way out. Of course there is no way out. This collection chronicles the "year of forgot to breathe," the year both parents die. In a pastoral scene, we see the pond filled with tires and truck parts, the pond where they throw in a dead deer on the count of three. These harsh, beautiful poems stun us with honesty, grit, and transformation."
--- Peggy Shumaker, author of CAIRN and Gnawed Bones
"K.E. Ogden's What the Body Already Knows manifests the circular and cyclical nature of grief with stunning directness and clarity. These poems are "muckings of primordial mud," yet amazingly they give words to what cannot be said. Ogden examines the wreckage of loss, and these parts are "scooped up to make a new world." I have never thought of loss as a mirror before reading these poems, but grief in this collection becomes a way of seeing the self in a world forever changed."
---Adam Clay, author of To Make Room for the Sea and editor of Mississippi Review
"The skillful and heartfelt elegies of Kirsten Ogden's What the Body Already Knows show us the whole world -- its people and elements and animals -- in dynamic mourning. In poems about the terror and splendor of life passing, of losing parents, of finding new anxieties and new joys in parenthood, Ogden's voice is at times lyrical and at times irreverent, but always well rendered and always humane: 'When I woke this morning, I wasn't yet/an orphan.' The poet restlessly seeks "synonyms for grief" in her crisp language and startling figurations. Even in the face of loss, Ogden reminds us the world is fragile, but the world is beautiful."
---Richie Hofmann, author of A Hundred Lovers and Second Empire
"What the Body Already Knows reminds us that grief does not have just one form. It is not just solid, not just emotional terrain, not just morphing bodies & time, it takes every form of matter. Ogden's work asks us to break open the cycles we come from & to be among grief's great disruption to our relational rhythms. How when our people go beyond, especially parents/parental figures, they don't leave, but how we are with each other becomes new. How in the midst of great grief comes change where we find new selves. The language in this book creates striking & surprising landscapes. Ogden's uses of form & symbolism build meditations on duality & coupling in the midst of transition. This simmering collection asks us to pull up a chair to grief's wake, welcome the deviations that arise, & change the cycles we claim for ourselves."
---Nabila Lovelace, author of Sons of Achilles
"These elegiac poems are invitations to the poet's living history in the present moment, where memory, emotion, and the outside world intertwine. This storytelling in lyric form reveals Ogden's exceptional dexterity in line-handling and imagery, most notable where the mundane and surreal collide. This debut chapbook introduces a powerful and engaging new voice to hear and follow."
---Lauri Scheyer, author of A History of African American Poetry and director, Center for Contemporary Poetry & Poetics at Cal State Los Angeles
"Kirsten Ogden's poems offer synonyms for grief while building new worlds simultaneously. These lyrical stanzas map the bridge between generations, and the forgotten wooden steps that take you home again. Cutting through the fog and the noise of the nightbirds, Ogden's poetry wields the capacity to sketch the unseen shadows on the horizon. She even sings back to them."
---Mike Sonksen, author of Letters to My City
"I enjoyed reading Ogden's new book enormously, did so in one sitting and didn't eat or sleep until I was done. It's an amazing pilgrimage into the heart of our times, our people, and explores all the chaos and misery and hope that simmers in daily piles in the minds of people. She does a remarkable job of allowing us to see what we have done, who we are, and what the way out of this foreboding landscape is."
---Jimmy Santiago Baca,