The Witch of Eye and Her Critics

The Witch of Eye officially launches on Feb. 16, but it’s received some generous early reviews, which I’m very grateful for.

In their starred review, Kirkus said: “As she explores the lives of women accused of witchcraft, the author investigates the relations among their experiences, her own life, and contemporary American society, and she brings both a poet’s intuition and a philosopher’s insight to the text…. Part memoir, part cultural criticism, entirely fascinating.”

Publishers Weekly included The Witch of Eye on their list of “Books for Short Attention Spans,” which I appreciated very much, considering how my attention span seems to be crumbling into dust. “In brief, lyrical retellings, she profiles women including Walpurga Hausmännin, a midwife executed for witchcraft in 16th century Bavaria, and Maria Gonçalves Cajada, convicted of sorcery in 17th century colonial Brazil. The stories become a lens on Nuerberger’s own experiences…”

Heidi Czerwiec (whose essay collection Fluid States is fantastic and has been a powerful inspiration for me), reviewing for Brevity, said: “After reading The Witch of Eye, Kathryn Nuernberger’s new collection of meditative and lyric essays about the cruelties inflicted on certain women—mainly “witches” but sometimes saints, though their ends are often equally as bloody—I was furious. As Nuernberger puts it, “I have anger and anger to spare.” Not because of reading the familiar stories—even if the named individuals are new to me, the stories are always “one version of the tragedy after another.” But because of how, as we are reminded in “Translations of the Conclusions & Findings Report for Catalina Ouyang as the True Confessions of Johannes Junius,” a piece on the gross institutional failures of Title IX investigations, words may be used against you: “your words aren’t words, your words are evidence, your memories are words, your feelings are evidence of the opposite of your words, except when they are consistent with something the panel considers evidence.” Having experienced this myself, when a former institution I worked for allowed my words to be twisted and violent threats made to me when I followed the institution’s own policies, I know, as does Nuernberger, that even being a writer does not translate to control over your own words, especially within patriarchal systems. The silences from these institutions were telling.”

Published by Kathryn Nuernberger

Kathryn Nuernberger's latest books are THE WITCH OF EYE (Sarabande), an essay collection about witches and witch trials coming out in February 2021, and RUE (BOA, 2020), a collection of poems about plants historically used for birth control and pissed off feelings about patriarchal bullshit. The End of Pink (BOA 2016) won the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her collection of lyric essays is Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past (The Ohio State University Press, 2017). A recipient of fellowships from the NEA, American Antiquarian Society, Bakken Museum of Electricity in Life, H. J. Andrews Research Forest, She teaches in the creative writing program at University of Minnesota. Recent work appears in 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Paris Review, The Southern Review, and Waxwing.

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