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00:00:00 - Introduction / family background

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Partial Transcript: Okay, it's February 12th, 2010, and I'm Arwen Donahue. I'm with Lisa--Leatha Kendrick in Lexington, Kentucky.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick discusses her birth during wheat-harvesting time, and her family's farming background, both on her mother's and father's side. Kendrick's childhood was mostly spent in Logan County, Kentucky where her father worked as a veterinarian and tobacco farmer.

Keywords: Agribusiness; Childbirth; Family history; Farming; Farms; Franklin (Ky.); Granite City (Ill.); Holly Goddard Jones; Isolation; Logan County (Ky.); Soil; Tobacco farming; Wheat farming

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Family farms; Farm life.; Tobacco farms--Kentucky

00:08:14 - Childhood farm work and life

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Partial Transcript: I grew up doing farm work to the extent that a girl in that--in the '50s would have been allowed to do farm work.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick and her sister worked on the family farm, often helping to set tobacco. Kendrick and her sister helped with farm work more than did their two younger brothers, who helped with the veterinary work; she describes their contemporary lives and work as well.

Keywords: Angus cattle; Beef cattle; Cattle farming; Family farming; Farms; Siblings; Sisters; Tobacco farmers; Tobacco setters; Tobacco setting

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Family farms; Farm life.; Tobacco farms--Kentucky

00:14:29 - Women's and girls' work on the farm

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Partial Transcript: Did you milk the cows for your own family?

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick discusses her mother's work and role on the farm and in the home. Her mother was very clear in telling her daughters that they needed some kind of training, and needed to go as far as they could.

Keywords: Cows; Dairies; Daughters; Farming; Homemaking; Manic depression; Milking; Mothers; Poetry; Strawberries; Women's work

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Family farms; Farm life.; Gender; Sex role; Women in agriculture

00:21:45 - Genesis of interest in writing

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Partial Transcript: And how did your awareness of literature, um, and art come into that, come into that picture?

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick's maternal grandmother, to whom reading and hearing language was important, introduced Kendrick to literature. As a child, Kendrick wanted to be a scientist, to know how the world worked, but her grandmother's interest in her writing spurred her own interest in the subject.

Keywords: "Science in Your Own Backyard"; Fathers; Grandmothers; Literature; Poetry; Science; Scientists; Wordplay; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; Childhood; Writing

00:26:51 - Studies in literature and linguistics at University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to mangle your last line from your poem "Science in Your Own Backyard" if you, if I try to quote it, but, but, but it has something to do with the nothing that's, that you thought was, that you thought was there.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick changed majors as a college student at the University of Kentucky from chemistry to English; she discusses why, and what she read in college. She also discusses her master's degree studies in literature and linguistics at the University of Kentucky.

Keywords: College; Composition; English literature; English majors; Jean Peebles; Linguistics; Literature; Masters degrees; Mysteries; Poems; Prestonsburg (Ky.); Reading; Science; University of Kentucky; Writing; Writing classes

Subjects: Authors.; Education, Higher; Higher education; University of Kentucky; Writing

00:33:17 - Balancing teaching, mothering, and writing

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Partial Transcript: So I thought that I would be perfectly content teaching freshman comp at, uh, the community college or something like that.

Segment Synopsis: After receiving her master's degree, Kendrick moved to Prestonsburg and began working in the mid-1970s at Prestonsburg Community College, where she continued to work part-time until the early 1990s. When she raised her children, she made the decision not to take a full-time job at the community college, which turned out to be a formative experience for her as a writer.

Keywords: College; College courses; Composition courses; Jefferson County (Ky.); Kentucky Country Day School; Motherhood; Mothering; Poetry; Prestonsburg Community College; Substitute teaching; Teaching; Women writers; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; Child rearing; Education, Higher; Employment--Kentucky; Higher education; Teachers; Teaching; Writing

00:37:57 - Studies with and influence of Wendell Berry

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Partial Transcript: Let's back up just a, a touch, and tell me, um, how you met your husband, and, and when, and um--well, let's just start there.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick met her husband at the University of Kentucky, where both were students of Wendell Berry. She describes visiting Berry at his farm; she recognized the importance of the relationship between farming and writing at that time, and learned that her own writing subject matter was similarly close to her own home and roots.

Keywords: "Fern Hill"; Art; Death; Dylan Thomas; Education; Essays; Farmers; Farming; Gardening; Life; Poems; Poetry; Teaching; Transience; University of Kentucky; Wendell Berry; Will Kendrick; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; Berry, Wendell, 1934-; Farm life.; Traditional farming; Writing

00:46:27 - Reflections on becoming a writer

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Partial Transcript: So you weren't necessarily saying to yourself at that point, consciously, "that's what, that's what, this is what I want to do."

Segment Synopsis: It took some time before Kendrick embraced the idea that she was a writer; she felt that she had not earned the title. She discusses the rich literary traditions that rural artists can draw upon.

Keywords: "Refusing a Spinal" (poem); Agrarianism; Agrarians; Farming; Literary traditions; Literature; Mysteries; Pastoralism; Process writing; Rural artists; Scott Russell Sanders; Slow food movement; Teaching; Wendell Berry; Writers; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; Berry, Wendell, 1934-; Farm life.; Traditional farming; Writing

00:54:26 - Motherhood and creativity

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Partial Transcript: Going back to, going back to what you said about, um, about how--the, the lost opportunity to teach full-time opened up the possibility of your living as a writer, can you, can you talk more about that, how that unfolded?

Segment Synopsis: As a young person, Kendrick was involved in many things, and she felt that the way to make a life was to be as busy as possible. When she made the choice to raise her children, and keep a garden, she had an experience of "non-entity-ness", but also felt that she was answering a calling, allowing her poetic voice to take shape.

Keywords: Creativity; Domestic issues; Food preservation; Gardening; Identity; Motherhood; Nursing; Stillness; Vocation; Women's experiences; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; Child rearing; Farm life.; Subsistence farming; Writing

01:03:08 - Balancing the demands of agrarian living with other meaningful work

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Partial Transcript: And it seems like it's a paradox that would be made deeper by your life in the country, that you were, at the same time, not, you know, not encountering the same kind of challenges as a, as a mother in the city who can just go grab take-out.

Segment Synopsis: It was important to Kendrick to grow her own food for her family, which was hard, demanding and rewarding work, but also important to find a balance between that work and other meaningful work.

Keywords: Agrarianism; Cooking; East Point (Ky.); Farming; Floyd County (Ky.); Food preservation; Gardening; History; Rural living; Work; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; Farm life.; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming; Writing

01:09:16 - Writing in urban versus rural places

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Partial Transcript: Well, that brings up an interesting tension, too, about, um, sort of how we balance what other people expect of us...

Segment Synopsis: When Kendrick devoted herself to writing, it was hard for some of her rural community members to know what to make of it. A cancer diagnosis prompted a move to Lexington, where her writing community is more easily accessible, but she misses the interaction with the landscape she had in Prestonsburg.

Keywords: Appalachian Writers Workshop; Cancer; Cities; Farming; George Ella Lyon; Lexington (Ky.); Master of Fine Arts (MFA); Prestonsburg (Ky.); Rural culture; Teaching; Urban culture; Writers groups; Writing; Writing communities

Subjects: Authors.; City and town life; Farm life.; Place attachment; Rural conditions; Writing

01:15:21 - Influence of land on language

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Partial Transcript: I was talking with Crystal, um, the--your, your words are echoing so much what she said.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick considers what happens when writers are disconnected from land and soil, and wonders about the long-term effect this will have on her poetry. Having contact with soil feels extremely powerful to her as a writing source.

Keywords: Agrarianism; Annie Dillard; Canning; Crystal Wilkinson; Farming; Food preservation; Language; Natural world; Poetry; Rural living; Urban living; Urban poetry; Writing

Subjects: Authors.; City and town life; Farm life.; Place attachment; Rural conditions; Writing

01:19:03 - Tensions between agrarianism and creativity

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Partial Transcript: Well, it's interesting, um, the, reading your essay that was, that was in, um, Listen Here, um, and you, you, mentioned "the bean field epiphany."

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick expands on her essay in the anthology "Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia", in which she writes about the "bean field epiphany": she wonders if there is anything she learned from picking beans and putting up her own food, other than how to pick beans and put up her own food. At that point, she decided she had to go get an MFA in creative writing.

Keywords: "Listen Here: Women Writing in Appalachia"; "The bean field epiphany"; Agrarianism; Eastern Kentucky; Farming; Prestonsburg (Ky.); Will Kendrick

Subjects: Authors.; Farm life.; Food--Preservation; Place attachment; Rural conditions; Subsistence farming; Traditional farming; Writing

01:22:23 - Choosing to live in Prestonsburg, Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: What brought the two of you to Prestonsburg to begin with?

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick's husband's family has a long history in Prestonsburg, and he has had a law practice there for many years. Kendrick was conscious of doing what her mother had done, in supporting her husband by moving to the place in which he wanted to live and work; she was also conscious that she found the landscape oppressive, and that she had to find a way to make peace with that.

Keywords: Eastern Kentucky; Family history; Hills; Landscapes; Louisville (Ky.); Prestonsburg (Ky.); Will Kendrick

Subjects: Authors.; Families.; Farm life.; Marriage; Place attachment; Rural conditions; Sex role; Writing

01:24:59 - Studying for her MFA at Vermont College

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Partial Transcript: What about your life as a writer? Does that--did that, um, really transform in the process of getting your MFA, um, or, or was it more of a social and community transformation?

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick received her MFA in creative writing through a low-residency program. She discusses how that process helped her writing, and was disruptive to the flow of family life, although it was a "positive disruption."

Keywords: Appalachian writers; Books; Children; Education; Family; Low-residency MFA programs; Masters of Fine Arts (MFA); Masters of Fine Arts degree (MFA degree); Women writers; Writing; Writing community; Writing craft

Subjects: Authors.; Education, Higher; Families.; Higher education; Writing

01:30:26 - Daughters' relationships with home

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Partial Transcript: How did your children feel overall about growing up in Prestonsburg?

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick discusses her daughters' relationship to their land, home, and family in Floyd County, Kentucky. She talks about where they live now, and the choices they make about their places and work.

Keywords: Charlottesville (Va.); Children; Community; Daughters; Eastern Kentucky; Education; Family; Floyd County (Ky.); Home; Landscapes; Prestonsburg (Ky.); Rural living; Washington, D.C.; Will Kendrick

Subjects: Families.; Floyd County (Ky.); Place attachment; Washington (D.C.)

01:36:18 - Kendrick reads and comments on her poem "Between Meanwhile"

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Partial Transcript: Well maybe, Leatha, we can get back, um, and start with--I, I just chose a poem somewhat randomly, that I, I thought, um--but that felt, felt right for the occasion, that I thought maybe you could read out loud on the tape.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick reads her poem "Between Meanwhile", and comments on it. She also discusses how she learned about and works with form and content in poetry.

Keywords: "Between Meanwhile" (poem); Consumers; Consumption; Energy; Fossil fuels; Master of Fine Arts (MFA); Master of Fine Arts degrees (MFA degrees); Master of Fine Arts programs (MFA programs); Natural gas; Organic farming; Poems; Poetic content; Poetic form; Soil; Sonnets

Subjects: Authors.; Poetry; Writing

01:45:04 - Writing influences

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Partial Transcript: You also mentioned, um, that the MFA helped you kind of identify where you came from as a writer, and, and maybe who your literary ancestors and your literary, um, community is.

Segment Synopsis: Kendrick discusses her influences and interests among other poets and writers.

Keywords: Elizabeth Bishop; George Ella Lyon; Influences; James Baker Hall; Kentucky poets; Landscape; Mary Oliver; Masters of Fine Arts (MFA); Masters of Fine Arts degree (MFA degree); Masters of Fine Arts programs (MFA programs); Originality; Origins; Poetic form; Teachers; Women poets; Writers

Subjects: Authors.; Writing