Updated: May 31
Having spent some time in a shelter for women who are fleeing violent partners, I can tell you that nearly all of them are not addicted to abusive relationships, enabling, or refusing to get out. Nearly all of them are protecting people they care about. And some simply have no way out for a number of socio-economic reasons. My roommate at the shelter told me how she didn't even like the man she had been with, but if she left him, he would harass her family and friends looking for her, after having already told her that he would do them physical harm if she didn't comply with his desires.
She returned to him. She didn't want him to harm the people she loved.
I would like to be able to say that law enforcement and other parties willingly protect a woman like this--a woman like me who had been trapped in a long-term situation of domestic violence. But, most are content to let us be the scapegoats we are.
Of my first full-length book of poetry, Slaughter the One Bird, examining trauma from sexual and domestic violence through a severely personal lens, Holly Day (author of In This Place, She is Her Own) writes "Priest opens herself to her readers like a surgeon, driving heartache and heartbreak home as though her poems were scrawled by a pen clenched in an angry fist. Slaughter the One Bird is brave, beautiful, irreverent, and incredibly relevant, its narrator travailing a landscape of domesticity gone sour, the scars of childhood, and all the secrets that make us who we are."
In writing the poems for Slaughter, I was probably more perplexed and searching than angry; but, yes, the book communicates latent anger--a late recognition that I journeyed through a world of violence alone in the sense that no one was going to risk their own skin to ensure my well-being or survival. Even today, my story and scars often come under scrutiny--a price paid from breaking my silence.
"Wind Chime" briefly captures my heroine's reflection on the physiological tension she carried in her body while in the throes of domestic violence, protecting children and home, trying to hang on to a thread of existence at great personal cost. Watch "Wind Chime." Pre-order information coming soon from Sundress Publications.
Slaughter the One Bird, my first full length collection, debuts with Sundress Publications this summer. This book examines the lifelong effects of harm done by childhood sexual assault against the back drop of a Midwestern landscape and Judeo-Christianity. Depicting a woman raising two children while entrapped by a violent spouse, Slaughter draws attention to the psychological complexities of trauma, defusing simplistic arguments concerning survival in situations of powerlessness.
"Priest is a poet I cannot stop reading," says Kelli Russell Agodon (author of Dialogues with Rising Tides), "her skillfulness with language, imagery, form, and story pulled this reader in, leaving me breathless with each and every poem . . . . These are powerful, courageous poems that are needed in the world—they give voice to the voiceless and they make space for the vulnerable, ultimately showing us the strength to make it through."
Pre-order information for Slaughter coming soon. For now, Here's my second video teaser, "Practice."