Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s third Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For this edition, we welcome Kory Wells, the author of Sugar Fix, poetry from Terrapin Books. A former software developer now focused on her longtime side gig in creative writing, Kory nurtures connection and community through her advocacy for the arts, democracy, afternoon naps, and other good causes. A recent two-term poet laureate of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, she is founder and manager of a reading and open mic series and a mentor with the low-residency program MTSU Write. Kory’s poetry has been featured on The Slowdown podcast by former U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith, and her writing appears in James Dickey Review, Ruminate, Stirring, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. korywells.com
Below the video, you can find links to some of the poems on AIOTB Magazine
The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgement
When the Watched Pot Boils
A Review of Kory Wells’ Sugar Fix
By Chase Dimock
When Kory Wells sent a submission of poetry to As It Ought To Be Magazine last Spring, I was first struck by her sense of history. In “The Assistant Marshal Makes an Error in Judgement”, Wells writes about a census taker in the 19th century whose guesses at the races of citizens become their legal racial identity inscribed in his government ledger. Today in 2020, it took a court battle to resolve the citizenship question on this year’s census. This poem is more than just a historical footnote; its reminder of how the politics of identity and who has the right to recognize it have continually defined American society. In this way, Wells follows the words of fellow southern writer William Faulkner, who famously wrote (and was even more famously quoted by President Obama) “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
With Sugar Fix, Wells explores the never dead past of today through the personal and cultural memories of sugar. Recipes handed down from generations are clues to her family mythologies, the proustian taste of chocolate ice cream on her tongue is a confessional, the trade in sugar and sweets in the south is a material history of the racial and class tensions of reconstruction to today. It would be easy for a book of poetry centered on the metaphor of sugar to lapse into saccharine sentimentality and syrupy cutesiness, but Wells is a poet who understands the cost of pleasure and the sweat demanded of our brow before we taste the sweet. She knows the personal price of indulgence and the social cost of supplying society with its sugar fix.
In “Still Won’t Marry” Wells takes on the persona from the traditional Appalachian song “Angeline the Baker,” envisioning her as weary of the constant propositions of trading sugar for skin:
He says a little taste of sugar will cure
my weary back, my aching shoulders, my
singed arms. Like I don’t know what that man wants.
Angeline’s side of the story is wise to the after effects of the sugar fix “The bed a pleasure too short. Babies Chores./ His wants ahead of mine.” Wells connects this folklore of indulgence in sugar and flesh to her own past in a poem whose title conveniently saves me from having to summarize its premise: “He drove a four-door Chevy, nothing sexy, but I’d been thinking of his mouth for weeks.” During a date at a Dairy Queen Drive in, Wells is fixated: Continue reading “Chase Dimock: A Review of Sugar Fix By Kory Wells”