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Today, I debut my third chapbook during the pandemic. Needless to say, it’s been exhausting to share so much story and market so many books in social media spaces alone. Yet, I must do it again and, in the end, have much to be thankful for in terms of publishing and the audiences, acquaintances, and friends I have gained in the poetry community despite social limitations these past two years.

In fact, this new book, titled THE OPTIMIST SHELTERS IN PLACE, published by Harbor Editions, is about those limitations. During the first few months of the pandemic, I found myself alone—like so many others—a single divorced woman isolated with painful memories of a difficult past and without much hope for a brighter future. Writing this book, about my own experiences, as well as our collective loss, helped me process this new experience and contemplate the death narrative raging in our world.

Now, it feels as though this narrative is relatively behind us. This doesn’t, however, erase life loss or the ongoing consequences of a long isolation. In a TIME Magazine article published on May 8, 2020 "COVID-19 Is Making America's Loneliness Epidemic Even Worse,” Jamie Ducharme highlights the rising number of people living alone in our country as well as the stigmas associated with expressing one's loneliness publicly. Even as COVID wanes, loneliness continues in our culture and, as the article explains, can be as damaging to one's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, significantly contributing to dementia, depression, anxiety, self-harm, heart conditions, and substance abuse. It can afflict anyone of any demographic. And, while making some recommendations about how loneliness can be addressed in daily life, this article mostly drew attention to loneliness as a "sidelined" issue as well as the fact that COVID has surfaced our need to address loneliness on a cultural level—stigmatizing less, and becoming more cognizant of everyone’s need for social support.

Loneliness is still a considerable factor in my own life. I’m sure it is the same for some who are reading this as well.

In an effort to continue the conversation on loneliness and to help us remain aware of the effects of COVID 19 on our world over the past two years, I invite you to help me market this book. I happen to love it. It’s my first non-“trauma” book and I’m a huge fan of the Laura Page painting on the cover because of that little spider to whom the book is dedicated. If you have a platform to share out my book and are willing to do so, I am eternally grateful. If you wish to buy a copy, I am grateful for that as well.

Here are some things other (more talented) poets have said about the book:

Through the lens of collective tragedy and the lived experience of a woman alone, these neo-confessional poems balance the ache of imagining families “sobbing” in hospital parking lots with the personal loss of long isolation, the fresh finality of divorce, and even the tedious need to clean the shower.

—Lisa Fay Coutley, tether

The Optimist Shelters in Place is a deeply moving chapbook reminding us that COVID-19 is more than a pandemic of illness—it is a pandemic of loneliness, too. Rather than choosing despair, the speaker in these poems faces each day with empathy, humor, tenderness, and compassion. This remarkable book is necessary reading for anyone who wants to understand our historical moment—what it feels like to live in it and what it means to make the choice, day after day, to keep living through it.

—Jeffrey Bean, Woman Putting on Pearls

In her stellar and deeply relatable collection, Kimberly Ann Priest reveals the loneliness of a single American divorcee who is suddenly isolated in a pandemic-ravaged world. Full of grief and desperation, she recounts her coping strategies, acknowledging the underlying sorrow that many of our “joyful” social media posts attempt to mask. These poems also show our constant need to conjure hope in the wake of tragedy.

—Meghan Sterling, These Few Seeds


I had such a great time conversing with John about my book! We covered topics of trauma, purposeful ambiguity, vulnerability, using the Biblical text to critique Christian religion, and minor disturbing oddities in the painting The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

And I think I even sound intelligent while doing so! Hurray for that!

I invite you to listen as well. It's well worth your time. And then jump on over to Sundress Publications to buy the book!

Just click this link to access the podcast via Apple podcasts, stitcher, Spotify, or stream HERE.

Buy the book HERE.

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