Memories of childhood

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Lisa Zimmerman and Kasey Jueds pose for the camera next to a podium in the University Center
Lisa Zimmerman (left), an associate professor of English and UNC's writing minor director, coordinated the poetry event featuring poet Kasey Jueds (right). Photo by Keyauna Caro.

A voice as sweet as sugar and a tone as warm as your favorite cup of tea. Poet Kasey Jueds is a soft spoken and bright woman who spent over ten years compiling her first book “Keeper,” a publication of poetry relating back to her childhood, and winner of the 2012 Agnes Lynch Starrett poetry prize.

Jueds’ poetry reading took place at the University Center on Sept. 25. Her poetry painted a vibrant picture in the audience’s heads throughout the reading, from descriptions of her red bike and blue bird house to the feeling of a secondhand dress she used to wear. Between poems, she shared detailed reasons as to why she wrote that specific poem. She also added a small fact or a quick comment to bring the poem to life. Jueds describes her poetry stanza as old fashioned and “Keeper” itself has no specific theme.

Jueds was born in south Florida where she spent most of her childhood. She said the driving force behind her writing are the memories from when she was younger. She opened with a poem called “To Swim:”

“Dear water, I loved you best

back then–my upside-down

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house, kinder than sidewalks

or too-high branches, the bent red bike

that tipped me to the street.”

Jueds’ inspiration for “To Swim” came from her mom wanting her to take swimming lessons because, in Florida, water is everywhere. Learning to swim is a moment in life the majority of people can relate to.

“Her poems remind me of my childhood,” said UNC student Katherine Fasbender.

According to Jueds, this specific poem causes readers to think of their own future and the feelings they’ll have when their own children are learning to swim.  

Jueds signs her book at a table, her hair falls in her face.
Jueds was available to sign books after the reading. Photo by Keyauna Caro.

Jueds has a section of poems dedicated to secondhand objects. “Fair isle,” “Secondhand Dress” and “Secondhand Sweater” are the three poems she read from this section. Jueds explained how she loves the idea of objects having a secret life before finding their way to you. She said the poems describing the secondhand clothing are beautiful, colorful and vibrant descriptions of mixed colors in fabrics and kitting from the secondhand stores.

”Secondhand Sweater” based on a real sweater Jueds found at the thrift store. The sweater was an Irish fisherman sweater. She gave a quick history lesson on how, in Ireland, each family has sweaters woven with different patterns unique to each family. If something happened to a villager they would be able to identify which family the person belonged to based on the sweater. This prefaced “Secondhand Sweater” with imagery so detailed and so softly spoken, the audience began to feel warmth in their own seat.

Jeuds shared more of her work, both old and new, before diving into an informal Q&A session. She said when poems no longer resonate with her anymore she removes them from the book. She explained she loves when poems feel alive and that’s important. The book and poetry structure kept morphing and changing throughout the process, and continues to even after the book was published.

Jued’s book “Keeper” can be found at Barnes & Noble bookstore.

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