Katie Farris

(Excerpt from boysgirls)

Her Mother’s Mother Was a Machete

Her mother’s mother was a machete. For her sixth birthday the girl received her mama’s pelt, laid down like the skin of a selkie, and a room in her grandmother’s house.

Every morning, the girl picked her grandmother up by her red splintered handle, cradling her silver head in the crook of her arm, and carried her to the kitchen table, where she sat and smoked with gale force while downing cups of coffee. The girl didn’t know where the smoke went, but she spent her days mopping the floor from stove to refrigerator. They listened to Christian talk radio. They supported themselves making dolls from straw: the girl split the strands against her grandmother’s well-honed blade.

Sometimes the grandmother let the girl sandpaper her handle, or re-glue her haft. On such occasions she made the girl turn her in front of the mirror, murmuring “Aren’t you delightful. I used to be a beautiful blade. Look at me now. I used to be beautiful.” After they watch the moon rise, the girl carries her grandmother back to her bedroom, lowers the blinds, pulls the covers up around her shoulder’s blade. Heads back to her own room. Opens her Bible to Ezekiel. To Job. Ruth. More of that strange mourning. But the grandmother doesn’t die, and doesn’t die, and doesn’t die, until she does.

Katie Farris studied genetics and plant biology, mycology and midwifery before writing boysgirls, (Marick Press, 2011), a hybrid form text incorporating prose poetry, fairy-tale, riddle, myth, illustrations by artist Lavinia Hanachiuc, and short-short fictions.

Farris’ poetry, fictions, and translations have appeared in various journals, including Virginia Quarterly Review, Western Humanities Review, Verse, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Gulf Coast, and Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her work has been translated into Lithuanian, and most recently into Spanish by Pura López-Colomé.

Farris is also the co-translator of several books from the Russian, French, and Chinese, including Polina Barskova’s This Lamentable City (Tupelo Press, 2010), Morning Ploughs the Winter (Marick Press, 2013), and New Cathay: Contemporary Chinese Poetry, 1990-2012. Her translations have also been widely anthologized in texts such as New European Poets (Graywolf Press) and Penguin Book of Classical Russian Poetry (Penguin).

With Ilya Kaminsky and Valzhyna Mort, Farris co-edited Gossip and Metaphysics: Russian Modernist Poems and Prose (Tupelo Press, 2014).

She holds degrees from UC Berkeley and Brown University, and is currently an Associate Professor in the MFA program at San Diego State University, where she won an Innovation in Teaching Award in 2013. She is also among the core faculty at New England College’s low-residency MFA program.


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