Valley Verses: Conway resident to release first poetry collection, “Kairos”

  • Conway resident Libby Maxey is releasing her first poetry collection, “Kairos,” in June. For the Recorder/Nicole Braden-Johnson

  • Conway resident Libby Maxey is releasing her first poetry collection, “Kairos,” in June. For the Recorder/Nicole Braden-Johnson

  • “Kairos”

  • BRADEN-JOHNSON

For the Recorder
Published: 4/17/2019 5:33:01 PM

A first glance at the elevated diction and usage of the sonnet form in Conway resident Libby Maxey’s poetry might make readers believe it’s inaccessible. But to Maxey, reading that kind of poetry is all the more rewarding.

“I love poetry that rewards study,” she explained. “If you have that sort of experience, of ‘Oh, I’m cracking this nut,’ it’s so rewarding. I want that to be available to readers. If you’re willing to look up a word, which is so easy now in the world of Google, where you can get the word and the etymology and the history, you don’t have to feel shut out.”

Maxey, an Aberdeen, Wash. native who moved to Conway with her husband, Trent, in 2005, is set to release her first poetry collection, “Kairos,” in June. “Kairos,” the manuscript for which won the 2018 New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition, is an eloquent and thoughtful collection of sonnets for readers who are looking for contemporary themes explored through the lens of traditional form and symbolism.

The first poem in “Kairos,” called “Anachronism” is prefaced by a Denise Levertov quote, critiquing traditional form as antiquated. Maxey said this view “bridled” her.

“This is such a wrong-headed way to talk about how we should write poetry,” she said. “Every person who comes into writing poetry, comes into it in their own winding way. The poem is a sassy rebuttal to the idea that you could say things about the poet that you can’t possibly know.”

Or, as she writes in her poem:

I sing by numbers, measured breath, each note

A contoured shape delineated by

Another for another voice to try—

Alive, I am this music’s warmest coat.

Other poems, like “Zeitgeist,” explore gratitude as well as “a general cultural awareness that we’re primed all the time to be irritable, and to be disappointed and frustrated, and to perceive inadequacy.”

We’d say thank God for carbon if we’d read

About it recently enough to know

That it was more than something to be taxed.

In addition to traditional and classical allusions, her poetry is rich with local history, referencing numerous landmarks around Conway and Amherst. At the same time, she explained, “of course, it’s not about the town. It’s not about the post office. It’s about the way the modern world doesn’t facilitate a sense of mythology in life.”

The titular poem “Kairos,” which is ancient Greek for “opportune moment,” is meant to embody what Maxey sees as fundamental to human nature.

“We take scraps from experience and what we’ve seen and heard, and weave our own mythologies to give our experience dignity,” she explained.

Aside from producing her poetry collection, Maxey is involved in a number of projects, including editing the bicentennial timeline for Amherst College to be celebrated in 2021. She is also an administrative assistant for Amherst College, senior editor for “Literary Mama,” and a personal editor for people looking to polish their memoirs, poetry and novels.

Maxey regularly attends a twice-monthly, local, independent writing group, which she credits with helping her maintain focus and meet her goals.

“It’s been such a help to me, because I need assignments,” she explained, adding that her fellow participants “tend to be so much more read than me in terms of modern poetry.”

She laughed, admitting, “My writing group thinks it’s weird that I’ll say ‘Oh, I’ve been wanting to write a poem about that for 10 years.’ But I don’t want to try if I don’t know how to do it.”

Among her chief literary inspirations, Maxey lists Edna St. Vincent Millay and John Donne. She explained, though, that music is as much of an influence as the literary, “because I sing, I steal a lot of hymnal vocabulary. I steal syntactic constructions from songs. I’m very interested in how does the poem sound, how does sound support sense, and I want the poem to move in a certain way. I want a rallentando at the cadence, basically.”

“Above all,” Maxey concluded, “I want my poems to be beautiful and a celebration of beauty.”

Her book is set to be published by Finishing Line Press out of Georgetown, Ky. To preorder a copy, visit finishinglinepress.com. For more information about Maxey and her services as a personal editor, visit her website at libbymaxey.com.

Nicole Braden-Johnson of Conway is the author of “Unheard Melodies,” a monthly poetry column in the local “The Visitor,” and has also been published in several literary journals. She is always on the lookout for poetry news and events, and can be reached at bradennicole@gmail.com. Visit her website at unheardmelodiesnkbj.blogspot.com.




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