MSAC Individual Artist Award (IAA)2014
Artist StatementI write poetry and, newly, creative nonfiction/literary memoir. My current work melds poetry and prose. Some call this the lyric essay or hybrid. Whatever it is, I love it. It's a vehicle for what I believe is reality, one where art, the making of it, is truth.
My two books of poetry are Island and Living Room (prose poems). My third book, My CIA, is a lyric essay/memoir. My CIA was named a top ten book of 2012 by the Review of Art, Literature, Philosophy and Humanities and added to their ongoing list of great nonfiction reads. It won a Baker Artist Award; was showcased on Maryland Public Television’s, An Artworks Special; and was featured through an art installation co-produced by Maryland Institute College of Art’s MFA in Curatorial Practice in early December 2013 in Baltimore. I have published widely in literary journals and magazines such as American Poetry Review. I have an MFA in Poetry and an MA in English/Creative Writing/Poetry. In 2011 and 2014, I won Maryland Individual Artist Awards (state grants in creative writing in poetry). I have been awarded finalist/semi-finalist status in the Emerging Writer Fellowship Competition, The Writer's Center, Maryland; the Joaquin Miller Cabin Reading Series, Washington, DC; the Autumn House Press Open Competition; The "Discovery"/The Nation Poetry Contest; the Poet Lore Narrative Poetry Competition; The Chester H. Jones Foundation National Poetry Competition; The Maryland Poetry Review Poetry Contest; and the fellowship competition, Summer Literary Seminars in Lithuania and Kenya, 2013. I teach Creative Writing at Stevenson University and University of Maryland University College. Finally, recently I won the Gabehart Prize in (Creative) Nonfiction for an excerpt from my manuscript, RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE; was named one of three finalists for the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award; was awarded a Hoffer Legacy (Creative) Nonfiction Award for My CIA; was named a finalist for my manuscript of prose poetry, Muse Annie, for C&R’s Summer Chapbook Contest; and (incredibly good news) won the Autumn House Press Open Book Award in Creative Nonfiction for my literary memoir manuscript, RUN SCREAM UNBURY SAVE, which means they’ll publish it and it will be out February 1, 2017.
About Run Scream Unbury Save, the judge for the award, Michael Martone wrote,
To “READ” (and yes I am using all that graphic punctuation with intent!) this extraordinary memoir, Run Scream Unbury Save, I had to employ a ZIP Extractor to extract (from the brain-like folds of the CLOUD) this gorgeously convoluted and original origamied textual text of the not so transparent text of this bookish book. That is to say, embedded in this message is the message that this mean medium is the message (a blast from the past!) and what a divine mess of a message it is.
Too often, it seems to me, we construct our books as if they are mere transcriptions of oral tales, desiring to invoke a waking dream in the reader while disguising the scaffolding of the narrative delivery device (the book itself), suppressing, consciously, the self-conscious consideration of self-consciousness. McCord, in Run Scream Unbury Save, reignites the curious rotary engine of curiosity, the spirographic folding back, that ululation, as a great storyteller confronting the unique high-techery of the book. Believe me, this book cannot, ever, be made into a movie or binge TV series or streamed video. No, it is a book’s BOOK. A map more detailed than the thing it represents. It confronts the BOOK and does what only the BOOK can do and does it with goddamn gumption and infinite grace.
Katherine McCord’s life here is an open book book, and the fine instrument of that opening is the story of that story.
--Michael Martone, Judge, Autumn House Press Creative Nonfiction Contest
Author of Michael Martone and Memoranda
About My CIA: A Literary Memoir
In her third book, a memoir, Katherine McCord uses the lens of the present to delve into the past: McCord was born in Monrovia, Liberia, Africa, the daughter of a CIA Officer and a beautiful, sheltered, young mother of Irish catholic descent, ten months after the birth of her sister. After a brief stay in Florida, McCord's father would take on his next mission in Katmandu, Nepal. There McCord's mother has a nervous breakdown and the family is secretly flown back to the states where McCord and her sister, fiercely close, would grow up in a "normal" Midwest environment but under and within a shroud of secrecy and propelled by disjointed memories, borrowed histories, and confusing recounts of the past. In My CIA, McCord looks at her life, so far lived with the eyes of a poet, one who knows not how to report and "tell everything" but knows only to tell the truth--of her sorrow, of her hope, of her love and how it finds itself through lyric. In other words, she gives us everything she has to give and finds that the answers are hard won and sometimes in the asking.
Blurbs/Reviews for My CIA:
Katherine McCord's heartbreaking lyric memoir, My CIA, is a fine example of a literary work in which the artist has found the perfect form to contain the content, a shapely vessel to hold shards of memory and loss. Just as the life and identity of a CIA agent (the author's father) is provisional, the persona narrating this story of a family fractured by a mysterious father's absences is a shape-shifter: now knowing, now child-like, now elegiac, now funny, now deeply compassionate and forgiving, and always wise and razor-sharp. Whether McCord is writing about getting on a plane in the middle of the night as a child to go to Nepal or about driving over curbs after a run to the grocery store, talking to her children or mother or sister, or packing up the house to take her family and the dog on vacation in Maine, her voice sings. This memoir is haunting, disturbing, beautiful, and resonant. I could not put it down.
--Natalia Rachel Singer, author of Scraping by in the Big Eighties, a memoir.
You'll want to read My CIA in one go, like I did, greedily, ready for every twist and in-breath that comes from the intricate layers of this expressionist tale. The poetic suspense of My CIA is a bit like Our Man in Havana colliding with Ariel, with deadpan humor and a poetic wit that cuts through the interstices between personal and public history. The family McCord creates, itself a kind of secret agency, operates like a postmodern dollhouse family with the banal-going-on-mysterious behaviors of Mother, Sisters, the Girls and the Father juxtaposed with genuine enigmas. What family espionage is revealed during a conversation between the Sisters where one holds the phone to the washing machine and the other responds, "But you wash everything"? There are hints of underhand influence and Who is the manipulator? floats above the pages making the reader want to investigate anyone's daily reality; but McCord's language is true blue. My CIA is at once smooth and complex, a comedy of manners and ghostly politics played on the stage of the Cold War, anticipating the epilogue of the 21st century. Best enjoyed with a martini, shaken not stirred. --Kathleene West, author of The Summer of the Sub-Comandante and Water Witching
Naming My CIA a top ten book for 2012 and placing it on their ongoing list of Great Nonfiction Books, Sarah Lee Fox of The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities wrote, "Ms. McCord is a charming writer, and I was knocked out by my CIA, oops, I mean, MY CIA. There is a mix here of the normal and ordinary life, and the very exotic if now existentially threatening previous life . . . She's a stylist well capable of blending the banal and the scary."
Reviewer’s Choice,“My CIA is an informative and curious read.” Midwest Book Review
More Praise for McCord:
The pared inscription, as well as the delicacy and discretion, of Katherine McCord’s debut collection, Island, are always deeply compelling and often breathtaking. The honorable simplicity of this work rewards us time and time again with both wisdom and delight. Quietly elegant, and as intimate as a whisper, this is a book to hold close in the silence of night. --David St. John, author of The Auroras
Katherine McCord's moving sequence of prose poems, Living Room, expresses truthfully and with poignant, even painful clarity the trials and triumphs of a life claimed by conflicting loves: love of writing, love of husband and children. She gives us a year of this life, and it is a privilege to experience it through her evocative, passionate language. --Kelly Cherry, author of The Woman Who
About Island: "[Katherine McCord] is a remarkable poet whose work is certain and hesitant at once, compressed and expansive. She wants silence to speak as carefully as her words. She sees poetry in the purest sense, working toward pieces where important things aren't merely described or reported but transformed. Katherine McCord is an artist, through and through, taking aspects of ordinary life and finding fear and wonder in them."
--Marianne Boruch, author of The Glimpse Traveler.
Product Details: My CIA: A Memoir by Katherine McCord: ISBN-13: 978-0982922842 Trade Paperback: 5.25" x 8", 180 pages $14.99 eBook: Most formats (Kindle, NOOK, etc.) $2.99 eBook Digital Edition ISBN: 9781452403670
For Muse Annie, Book Art, a chapbook, unpublished as a whole, I used mostly vintage construction paper, with contemporary, woven in, most medium weight. I also incorporated very old wrapping paper (or the front of also (truly) vintage wallpaper (and on)) found by, and generously and kindly given to me at my careful request, my very dear mother-in-law at my husband’s very dear father’s parents’ lake house after they had both died. I don’t remember how I created the illustrations. I was out of my body when doing so, but I can tell you the women/girls within are indicative of drawings I did as a child and was told by a probably well-meaning, I’m sure, bless her/him, family friend to draw more fluidly. I think her/his words were, don’t use triangles for their bodies/dresses. As a child, I never made them fly. I’m make them fly now. Because I can. The packaging, again to mirror, the way my sister, mother and I found delicious construction paper on store shelves when my sister and I were children, but is this time eco friendly—because I had to. Even the price stickers I was lucky enough to find and stick on the outside are old and wonderfully familiar in that way.
In other words, everything is real.
--Katherine McCord, November 2015
To buy Run Scream Unbury Save, you can go here (the press): http://www.autumnhouse.org/product/run-scream-unbury-save-katherine-mccord/ To buy Island or Living Room, even though both are out of print, you can go to Amazon or contact me. To buy My CIA, you can go to Amazon, the press (Telling Our Stories Press), or contact me. To buy Muse Annie, Book Art, you can contact me or find it on etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/MuseAnnie?ref=hdr_shop_menu. For a signed copy of any of my work, be sure to contact me.