White Lung (Paperback)
When coal dust infiltrates the lungs of coal miners, we call that disease black lung. Kimberly O’Connor’s debut collection, White Lung, illuminates how racism also permeates American air—hate, fear, and shame left in our wake. O’Connor breaks the silence our culture expects of white women. Her unflinching poems catalog how racial epithets can get passed down through a family, documenting a 2014 execution along the way as well as archiving events leading up to Roe V. Wade. O’Connor examines how the self might not only speak its own truths but open up spaces for more capacious truth.
Kimberly O’Connor is a North Carolina native who lives in Golden, Colorado. Kim is the Young Writers Program Co-Director for Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She received an MFA from the University of Maryland. She has taught creative writing and literature in middle school, high school, and college classrooms in Colorado, Maryland, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Her poetry has been published in B O D Y, Copper Nickel, Colorado Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, Slice, storySouth, THRUSH, and elsewhere.
"What does it mean to be awake in America in the 21st century? Kimberly O'Connor's brilliant debut does the hard work of an imagination committed to ethical reflection in poems moving with swift urgency and cunning formal energy. Her vision is grounded in the personal but turned socially outward, defined by close discoveries with a meaning for everyone, 'like looking out the window of an airplane. The world growing smaller and bigger at the same time.' For this poet such double-vision is a powerfully perceptive instrument; it is part of the intelligence sensitive to hidden pressures that shape us, deform us, and that we can't escape--the social codes and toxic inheritance of racism, control of the female body, the way consumerism sneaks into our very sense of self. 'The truth is I am the big disaster,' she writes. The drama of restrained and penetrating self-inquiry; the tense revelation of deep and intimate entanglements with others; the feeling tones searching desperately, helplessly, for some respite where one might breathe as oneself, even as she acknowledges the privilege of a freedom creating the space in which one might see it for its illusoriness . . . 'What difference does it make, one person's story?' O'Connor's poems convince us, by virtue of their invisible craft as much as by their comprehension, of a real human presence; like Brecht, she knows what she's doing; they are the equipment for living one hopes to find in poetry." —Joshua Weiner