Science in Your Own Back Yard

Kendrick, Leatha

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Collection (Poems)

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Dec-31-1969
  • Last revised: Nov-16-2003


This chapbook by Kentucky poet Leatha Kendrick features a sequence of poems dealing with her experience of breast cancer and mastectomy. The "science" in the title moves from a little girl’s fascination with nature, and her insight that "all she learned was nothing / is only what you thought you saw" (p. 2); through her mature view of "these spiky shadows" on ultrasound (p. 10); to chemotherapy, where she feels "like the muck this stuff is supposed to make of the fast- / dividing cells" (p.18).

But the science of cancer fails to amputate the poet’s narrative. Early on, "My first love called them Skeeter and Bite. / Equal then, if small. Skeeter got / most of his attention." (p. 14) Later, during her treatment, "Excuse me while I grow bald and fat." (p. 21) Eventually she learns, "The map back is a flat / red road, underpinned with bone, / she must learn to dance upon." (p. 28).


This is a fine collection, with several poems that might be compared favorably with selections from Marilyn Hacker’s Cancer Winter, Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals, and Alicia Ostriker’s The Mastectomy Poems [see annotations in this data base]. Poems of special literature and medicine interest in this collection include, "Second Opinion," "Sonogram," "Stopped," "ChemoMath," "Pear Tree Mastectomy," and "Learn to Love What’s Left." Probably the most striking and expressive poem is "Costume. Fakery. The Sell," which combines anger, humor, insight, and self-confidence.


Available from Larkspur Press, 340 Sawdridge Creek West, Monterey, Kentucky 40359.


Larkspur Press

Place Published

Monterey, Ky.



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