The Lancaster Poetry Exchange featuring Eileen Kinch
The September gathering of the Lancaster Poetry Exchange was one I’d been looking forward to for a whole month. I got a brief preview at the August gathering, when Kinch read during the open reading. That she was announced as a featured poet was exciting. (“You guys need to come to this!” I’d commanded my fellow The Triangle editors. “She’ll impress you.”)
Eileen Kinch’s poetry feels like a sigh.
Entrenched in the faith of the Quakers, her stories echo with simple observations that reveal a complex history that so many people no longer think can exist.
For those (like me) who don’t know much about the Quaker faith, it’s easy to try and peg her as Mennonite or Amish. She wears a cloth covering with a shawl and blue skirt.
However, references to Billy Joel and other pop culture icons peppers Kinch’s writing, providing an interesting counterpoint to the preconceived notions common to people unfamiliar with her background. It becomes obvious that Kinch’s poetry doesn’t eschew the world like the various Anabaptist denominations might.
Even in a place like Lancaster County, where horse and buggies clip-clop along major roads, seeing things from a Quaker perspective feels new and exciting. Because while the poems hint at things easy recognizable, like parting hair or food on a table, it is described in a way that is disarming.
The thrust of her poems reveal glimpses into the way Kinch sees and experiences the world. From simple anecdotes to wider observations about nature, Kinch conveys her poems with simple words intricately arranged for high impact. So many poets can write about nature, but they do it in a way that reveals nature. The effect of Kinch’s poetry, however, is one that reveals humanity, even through her nature descriptions.
For someone who read with little preamble, while gazing downward at her book, Kinch’s performance was surprisingly captivating. While her words do a great job of showcasing her stories, she knows how to present them in a way that gives them new life. Many of her poems feel serious on the page, but hearing her read them aloud draws out some subtle humor woven within. Her inflections, pauses, a quirk of the mouth, and quick glance at the audience all convey something important–whether intended or not.
While it may have been one of the more subdued performances I’ve seen at the Lancaster Poetry Exchange, it didn’t lack in impact. Kinch is one of the more interesting current voices in the Lancaster scene.
Eileen Kinch is reading again at the CityArts Gallery (118 W. Philadelphia St in York) on Sunday, October 27th at 1pm as a part of Pop-Up Reading Series.