Mill Spit by Alexandra Kemrer
Alexandra Kemrer’s poems have appeared in Voices from the Attic, Rune, and Pittsburgh City Paper’s Chapter and Verse. She is a member of the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops under the direction of Jan Beatty at Carlow University. Her debut chapbook, Mill Spit, is based on her experience growing up in a small town on the Monongahela River when air pollution from the steel and zinc mills was severe. She lives and writes in Pittsburgh, PA.
Join Alexandra for a release party, 6-8 p.m. at Commonplace Coffee Shop, 6736 Reynolds St. in Point Breeze (formerly Make Your Mark).
Alexandra Kemrer’s Mill Spit takes us back in time to a mill kid’s childhood in a small Pennsylvania steel town where the mill itself is a character hulking in the background, as real and discontent as the adults caught in its soot. Kemrer’s poems remind us that beauty and mystery are everywhere waiting to be discovered–in spite of the difficulties and grit, and sometimes in the difficulties and grit.
–Nancy Krygowski, author of Velocity (University of Pittsburgh Press)
The impact of bad air quality on children and communities is often invisible, easily ignored, and an aspect of history frequently forgotten. Kemrer’s collection of intimate poems, Mill Spit, succeeds gently, yet powerfully, in highlighting the invisible threat of pollution and its profound effect on generations. The poems sound a cautionary note in the present, as our decisions affect the future.
–Sara Longo, Managing Director of Airviz Inc., maker of the Speck air quality sensor, daughter company of the CREATE Lab at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotics Institute.
Alexandra Kemrer’s Mill Spit invites us to see the mill town of Donora, PA, from the perspective of a child asking questions no adult will answer. With sonic power and wild imagination, Kemrer explores working-class identity, the way our landscape shapes us and is shaped by us, and the pressures of family and history. Mill Spit asks us to examine how we relate to industry and our environment, and powerfully confronts the human cost of profit. These poems strive for beauty and joy amidst soot and grit—they sing out amidst forces that would silence them. Kemrer is a poet we all need now.
–Emily Mohn-Slate, author of Feed (Seven Kitchens Press)
In Mill Spit Alexandra Kemrer opens a furnace of memories of a steel mill town, of a neighborhood built on a hill too steep for cars where looking down at your feet is the safest way to walk. In unsparing language she shows the amputations suffered in a place where even the light is rusted — If I catch you dancing, / I’ll break your legs; / you’re a mill kid, / my father said. And yet there is hope in pennies found and hidden and found, and beauty to be ransomed, even in the harsh fathers themselves—daisy chain of fathers’ hands / calloused pads grasp hot steel. These poems hold together the English sparrow and white-hot steel. They are, in just the way Keats taught us, beautiful and true.
– Diane Gilliam
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