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One Day I am a Field

Glass Lyre Press


Can grief be sieved through a blooming lattice or pushed through a bevy of rooms without walls?  The caregiver and her adored, dying husband study twinning comprehension of such questions, as if air itself or “the songbird’s feathers/how they reflect invisible light” might provide answers, or a code, or, mercifully, calm hearts.  Small-McKinney’s prayerful attention to “secret visual signals” feeds this collection’s lyrical power and slender narrative. I know of few other poem sequences that so closely portray the caregiver’s broken body:


                     Why was the left side of my face shutting down?

                      My eye closing, its lid covering half of the pupil.

                      I did not see it.


Or is this the divide between seasons, a caregiver’s sleepwalk, the I am and I can’t?


The title poem offers a way, invoking a “you” who is and is not the beloved, who is or isn’t Nature or Eros newly embraced: “You bring me rain, carry it in your mouth/as if I were a baby bird.  You make many trips./Squat beside me./There were never enough words between us.” These poems are a great gift to us all.

— Judith Vollmer, author of The Sound Boat: New and Selected Poems (University of Wisconsin Press, 2022).



Here in these poems is a woman whose life is torn into scraps by its proximity to death--and every scrap cries out with its own vibrant and urgent life.  "Grief does not ask me/ to be pretty.  Does not ask me/ to be a corsage pinned to a gown." This is a gorgeous book.  This is what poetry can do.  This is why we need poetry.

—Alicia Ostriker, author of The Volcano and After: Selected and New Poems 2002-2019, as well as Chancellor, Academy of American Poets 2015-2020, and New York State Poet Laureate 2018-2021




Even the grass grieves in Amy Small-McKinney’s heart wrenchingly honest collection of deeply felt wounds and the kinds of courage needed to face such traumas. In One Day I Am a Field, Small-McKinney, whose “body is a blade”, “etches absence” from what beauty remains of her shrinking world. After the loss of her husband, suffering incredible grief, she must find a way to honor his memory while also redefining herself. A rich testament to the power of love and the human spirit, these poems paint an intimate portrait of tragedy, tenderness, identity, and the ever-present need for empathy. Small-McKinney showcases a true talent for imbuing the smallest details with authenticity and layered meanings. Overflowing with vivid and accessible language, One Day I Am a Field is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally engaging, written with clear eyes and an open, curious heart. I dare anyone to read these poems and not be moved.


— John Sibley Williams, author of As One Fire Consumes Another

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Walking Toward Cranes

Glass Lyre Press


Because of the dignified, restrained, and at times, stoic treatment of the subject of breast cancer, the reader of this collection,Walking Toward Cranes, finds herself in the hands of a skilled poet and an admirable human spirit. As readers, we can’t help but compare our emotional lives to that of the speaker. But this speaker measures her identity by expanding metaphorical margins to include many objects in the natural universe. How is she like or not like the leaf, the maple tree, the snow? These kinds of items become iconic by the end of the book. Perhaps Small-McKinney’s greatest gifts are the unexpected images in her work i.e “....we are not maps, nothing leads us to each other,” or “...When my daughter was born, I opened into a basin, received her, cool water.” How gratifying to find a collection of poems which beckons us to read and reread it, always finding new and complex layers of meaning.

—Kathleen Sheeder-Bonanno, Winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award for Slamming Open the Door

Life is Perfect

Book Arts Press


In the title poem of Life is Perfect, Amy Small-McKinney, tells her daughter “we have to love what we are given – /the molecules or atoms that stabilize into ourselves.” This is poetry that is atomic. Each poem quietly explodes on the page till you’re watching a sparkler unfold its clusters of stars, so many linguistic excitements going on at once, you grieve each poem’s end but can’t wait for the next one to ignite. But the poetry here is atomic in another sense as well; it embraces life at its most essential, perfect in its imperfections: the tent kept in the living room, huge, questionable birds, Lemon Boy Hybrids, Bloodroot, unruly grass, the voices of the Rift Valley, of Merewala, of Bombay, Aunt Henrietta’s Art Nouveau – Jugendstil, massive burritos, stuffed with “seasonings we haven’t tasted before.” In Life is Perfect we are offered spices we haven’t tasted before, a feast we will never forget, poems whose adventures make us braver than we thought we could be – and wiser too! 

—Christopher Bursk, Author of Improbable Swervings of Atoms 

In Life is Perfect, Amy Small-McKinney explores the inner and outer psychological landscape of family relations and our own connections to each other and ourselves. In luminous lyrical language, she proves she is a master of surrealistic leaps and startling metaphors. Her poems are haunting, often with a rare and rich thought-provoking layered quality but always emotionally truthful and with a purity of spirit that makes one want to return to these poems again and again. Small-McKinney is an exquisite poet and Life is Perfect is one of the most beautiful books of poetry I have read this year.

—Laura Boss, Author of Flashlight

Clear Moon, Frost

Finishing Line Press


The poems in Amy Small-McKinney‘s chapbook, Clear Moon, Frost, take the world we think we know all too well, and return it to us, reordered, inside out, and bristling with wonder. Her sumptuous surreality taps directly into dream. Her wise metaphors are the gold that comes from walking into the furnace of life-and-death experiences with true faith. Humility and intensity are her hallmarks. Amy Small- McKinney writes with a commitment to inner life, inner depth, and inner truth.

–Molly Peacock, Author of The Analyst: Poems


Amy Small-McKinney is a very wonderful poet, and has secretly and quietly produced some of the most beautiful poems I have ever read. Her poem, "Letter From a Scarred & Aging Body," is so poignant it makes me seasick.

–Franz Wright, Author of Kindertotenwald


Rumors Secrets & Lies: Poems About Pregnancy, Abortion, & Choice - Edited by Carol Lynne Knight & Kristine Snodgrass

101 Jewish Poems for the Third Millennium - Edited by Nancy Naomi Carlson & Matthew E. Silverman 

Ashland Poetry Press, January 2021

50/50: Poems & Translations by Womxn over 50 - Edited by Ann Davenport, Quill's Edge Press, January 2018

Veils, Halos, and Shackles: International Poetry on the Abuse and Oppression of Women - Edited by Charles Fishman and Smita Sahay, Kasva Press, April 2016 

Bared: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts - Edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman

Les Femmes Folles Books, December 2016

Voices From the Porch: Poems, Essays and Fiction from Favorite Gathering Spaces - Edited by Maureen Sherbondy

Main Street Rag Press, December 2013

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