Issue 86: Kathryn Smith


About Kathryn Smith

Kathryn Smith won the Jake Adam York Prize for her poetry collection Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, which will be published in February 2021 by Milkweed Editions. She is also the author of the chapbook Chosen Companions of the Goblin (Open Country Press, 2019), and the full-length collection Book of Exodus (Scablands Books, 2017). She’s on the world wide web at, and on Instagram as @paperhermitage, where she posts about poetry, collage, mixed media art, ink-making, gardening, and other stuff. She lives in Spokane, WA.

A Profile of the Author

Notes on “Ode to Super Friends and Nature Television”

I try to live conscientiously, especially where the environment is concerned, but some days it feels utterly futile. Like, do I seriously think I can forestall the planet’s collapse by line-drying my laundry? “Ode to Super Friends and Nature Television” is a litany of these frustrations, merged with images inspired by the BBC documentary series Planet Earth. So why do I call it an ode? I guess it’s part sarcasm, part Hail Mary to the fictions we tell ourselves with our small gestures, the hope that they might, after all, add up to something. And I do love those nature shows.

This poem started out as several different poems. I wanted to write about how climate change is messing with birds’ migration patterns. I wanted to write about the animals I inadvertently displaced by sending an arborist into my ancient urban maple tree to prune it. I wanted to write a list poem of things over which I have no control. And the ants. Oh, how I wanted to write about zombie ants! But individually, the poems lacked the urgency I was after. So, I took the best and most frantic lines from each and built this Frankenstein’s monster of a poem. And to my surprise, it came to life.

“Ode to Super Friends” opens my new book, Self-Portrait with Cephalopod, which comes out in February from Milkweed Editions. When I wrote the poem, I didn’t know I would use it to set up an entire collection, but it works because it grasps at so many of my obsessions, it’s full of dread, yet somehow, it maintains its awe and love for this doomed world.

Music, Food, Booze, Tattoos, Kittens, etc.

I just ate a cupcake. I don’t like cake, but I’ll eat a cupcake if someone brings it to my door, which is what happened. This particular cupcake was left over from a memorial service for two chickens. The chickens spent the first eight weeks of their brief but idyllic life in the attentive care of two children (not mine) desperately in need of a pandemic project. When the birds had outgrown their cardboard brooder box (not to mention the patience of the parent whose living room the fast-growing cluckers had taken over), they came to live among my established backyard flock, where they spent the next four weeks mingling with the big hens, sorting out their pecking order (it’s a real thing, if you’ve ever wondered), and plotting their escape before some asshole neighborhood cat broke into their coop in the middle of the night and snapped their necks. The funeral was the children’s idea, or maybe their parents’, but not mine. The cupcake was lemon flavored and decorated with that weird, translucent gel icing that stains your teeth, which had been used to draw the outline of a baby chick. It tasted just how a funeral cupcake should taste–a little bit tart, distinctly chemical in a boxed-cake-mix way, and ultimately disappointing.

“Ode to Super Friends and Nature Television” By Kathryn Smith

  Days when the planet seems particularly poised for disaster, I wear both my cephalopod T-shirt and my cephalopod ring. Have you heard of a more Anthropocene coping mechanism? I … Read more

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