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Amy Fleury
Photo by Thomas Prasch 

Amy Fleury


Beautiful Trouble, by Amy Fleury

Reliquaries of the Lesser Saints Cover

Sympathetic Magic Cover Fleury

 

 

 

Biography  
          

Amy Fleury is a native of Nemaha County in rural northeast Kansas, and graduated from Nemaha Valley High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree and her M.A. from Kansas State University, Manhattan, and her M.F.A. from McNeese State University.

Fleury’s work has appeared in American Life in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, North American Review, The Southeast Review, Laurel Review, 21st, and The Yalobusha Review. Southern Illinois University Press published her first collection of poetry, Beautiful Trouble, in 2004. It was the winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award, and was also included in a list of 100 notable books of 2004 published by The Kansas City Star. Her book was given the number one spot on the “cream of the crop” list, the top ten of the 100 originally listed.

Amy Fleury has been a recipient of the Nadya Aisenberg Fellowship from the MacDowell Colony and a Kansas Arts Commission fellowship in poetry. She lived in Topeka, Kansas, where she taught creative writing for ten years at Washburn University, where she was Professor. As of the Fall of 2008, she became the poet in the M.F.A. program at her alma mater, McNeese State University.


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Published Work  
 

Beautiful Trouble ( Southern Illinois University Press, 2004)
Reliquaries of the Lesser Saints ( Ropewalk Press, 2010)
Sympathetic Magic (Southern Illinois University Press, 2013)


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Poetry Selections
 

"Always Girl"--Beautiful Trouble, 2004

That girl,
always a string bean child
fretting at her mama's skirts.
Her time will come, sorry to say.

She trips across pasture tugging
that grubby-toed baby doll,
always blond, always girl.
She hides in the corncrib
that cradles puckered ears,
afraid of those kernels that hang
like brown teeth on wicked gums.
She spins, she spins, dizzy and silly.
That girl, she stands by the creek,
shivering ribs and bruised and bony knees,
sipping thimbles of sunshine, she does.

Soon she will wake from her moon-blessed sleep,
ripe with morning. That girl will find
stained panties and her own worried hems.
And on some porch, she will sit and sweat and squint
and shuck her corn with blistered thumbs.
She'll conjure thunder and shuck that corn.


"Threshing"-- Beautiful Trouble, 2004

Under the polished spokes of the sun,
they sickle and sheave their wheat.
He sings her that song
she's been wanting to hear
of riffling water and sweet fall breeze.
But these are her hands calloused with rhythm,
this is her hair full of sweat and chaff.
She braids her body through the rows,
reaping his voice and the autumn seed.

On this day she will leave the field,
leave the husk of her self.
She will rise to praise the harvest moon,
the spirit of soil, wind and rain.
On this night she will lie with her man
and remember the boots under their bed.
They will weave their limbs and twine their dreams
and bless each other with their breath.
In sleep they will grow together,
root, stalk, and grain.


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Author Interview

 
 

Q. What inspired you to begin writing? What do you feel your greatest inspirations have been during the years that you have been writing?

A. Reading was what first inspired me to write. All my life I’ve been a deeply dedicated reader. My hometown library, the Seneca Free Public Library, was a converted Congregationalist church, and spending time there, I learned a reverence for the written word. There were beautiful stained glass windows all around, and to check out your books, you had to step up to the pulpit where Elizabeth Weber or Eddie Love, the wonderfully kind librarians, would stamp your library card in purple ink. I believe that reading and writing are like listening and talking—two sides of a conversation. Reading made me want to join this conversation.

Great novels, stories and poems inspire me, as do amazing music and art. I have also had the good fortune of having had some brilliant and thoughtful teachers along the way for whom I am very grateful.

Q. When did you first take yourself seriously as a writer?

A. During the fifth grade I was completely smitten with Louis Fitzhugh’s novel, Harriet the Spy. See Harriet, in addition to being a spy, had writerly aspirations and she kept a secret notebook of observations about her friends and family. As you could imagine, Harriet got herself into some trouble with this, as did I when I accidentally turned in some of my own spy notes with my math homework. Luckily my teacher was more amused than angry. I, however, was mortified to the core of my ten-year-old soul. I continued to write, but was careful to guard my output from then on. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I would call myself a writer because I thought it was presumptuous to use that title unless I’d earned it. When I realized that writing and literature were the things I spent most of my time thinking about and doing, really consuming my energy, interest, and attention, then I felt that I just might be able to call myself a writer.

Q. When you sit down to write a poem do you usually know how you would like it to come out, or does the creative process lead you to surprises?

A. Most of the time when I begin a poem I begin with language—a line that compels me, some intriguing pairing of words, an image, a metaphor—and then let the language pull me along. It seems that every time I sit down with an “idea” what I end up writing seems forced, artificial. Starting out with too fixed of a preconception of what a particular poem should do or be seems, for me, to limit the possibilities of what it could become. One of the great delights of writing (and reading for that matter) is discovering the unexpected. I love the Robert Frost quote: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” This approach involves faith and oftentimes a fair bit of patience, but it’s worth enduring the uncertainty.

Q. I’ve read that you are a native of Nemaha County. How long has your family lived in Kansas? How has growing up and living in Kansas influenced your writing?

A. I’m a fifth generation Kansan with my dad’s family coming from Cloud County and my mom’s located in Nemaha County. Living in Kansas has certainly shaped my sensibility as a writer. The landscape, the rhythms of speech, the weather, the character of the people, and the unique way of looking at the world just get in you. As the old saying goes, you can take the girl out of Kansas, but you can’t take Kansas out of the girl. I do see the influences in my writing—the metaphors and words I choose, the cadences and syntax. The setting of Kansas is pretty implicit (and sometimes explicit) in a lot of my work; however, I use the K-word sparingly when I write because I don’t want to diminish its power.

Q. Are there any favorite authors who have influenced your work?

A. There are so many that if I listed them I’d inadvertently leave some important ones out! Rather than do that I’ll just mention a poet whose work was an early influence on me and has remained a strong and constant influence in my writing life: William Stafford. His were some of the first contemporary poems I read when I was in college, and I loved how lucid and startling and wise they were. Then I learned that he was a born and raised Kansan like myself. It always seemed to me that poets were either dead or from New York, and here was one who was neither, and his poems were about my world. I have always admired the humility and honesty in Stafford’s work, and his voice echoed that of any of my good uncles. Almost daily some relevant Stafford line surfaces in my thoughts. His poems keep me excellent company.

Q. What do you hope a reader will take away from your poetry?

A. Poems should invite us to a deeper attention to the natural world or to some aspect of the human condition. I hope a reader would find something of themselves in my poems and thus be inspired to a greater sympathy and understanding of others. This sounds awfully lofty! I’d also just like the reader to enjoy the aesthetic experience.


Q. Do you have a personal favorite among your published poems?

A. There are a few poems that I feel have more significance than others, but none that I would say is a favorite. I’ll lean back on a trusty Stafford quote here. When asked which of his poems was his favorite he said, the next one.


* Miranda Ericsson interviewed Amy Fleury via E-mail on December 12, 2006


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Links  
 

Robert Lawson has created a page about Amy's collection Beautiful Trouble.  It features two poems.
http://www.washburn.edu/reference/bridge24/Fleury.html

The first Poet Laureate of Kansas, Jonathan Holden, praises the poetry of Amy Fleury. The page also has a link video of the poet reading her poem “At Twenty-Eight.”
http://www.kansaspoets.com/shoptalk_programs/st_fleury_amy.htm

See a short bio and four poems from Beautiful Trouble on the Kansas Poet Index Site.
http://www.kansaspoets.com/ks_poets/fleury_amy.htm

Verse Daily features a short bio, reviews, and a link to Fleury’s poem “The Progress of Night” from Beautiful Trouble.
http://www.versedaily.org/aboutamyfleurybt.shtml

Fleury’s poem “At Twenty-Eight” was featured in the American Life in Poetry Series, a project of Ted Kooser that brings poetry to a wider audience through featuring it in the newspaper. You can read the poem at the American Life in Poetry web site.
http://www.americanlifeinpoetry.org/columns/059.html


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This page was created by Miranda Ericsson in 2007

Last updated 6/2007

 

   

 

 


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