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Katherine Durham Oldmixon Garza

Life Afterlife / A Book of the Hours gathers a lover’s poems from a life together in body and from love translated to grief as the sudden death of her spouse transmutes a woman into the afterlife of a widow. As her husband becomes her spirit mate, she asks him, What are you now?, struggling with Orphean desire. And so, the poems speak intimately to the beloved, turn inward to the self to face the chaos and conflicting emotions of trauma, and journey outward, as the heart, broken open, witnesses the suffering of others. A book of hours, brief lyric observations of her garden or dream experiences, weaves through the poems. These delicate lines hold the speaker in the present, even as the poems move in other dimensions of time—memory, imagination, and myth.

Life Afterlife / A Book of the Hours, Katherine Durham Oldmixon Garza’s debut collection, is a poetry of doubleness, of two shall become one flesh in every possible way. Not just between two lovers, but also within the central-Texas landscape and sky, whose daily events are the medium through which this love is expressed—cactus blossoms, dew, new moon. Two tongues blending in a kiss and in two languages blending within a single sentence. We move in and out of English, Spanish, hummingbird, apricot tree, music, and muscle. “Time moves through us, not us through time,” as the beloved says. This is the most beautiful love poem of a book, a testament to love that is longer than a human life, greater than the world it so loves in every sensual detail.

—Marcela Sulak, City of Sky Papers

The questing and grieving speaker of Life Afterlife / A Book of the Hours fills ‘’the widow hours” with revelatory dreams, consoling garden flowers, firefly sparks, hummingbird flutter, caracols, relics, the inspiriting crafts of war-challenged women, and all matter of cosmic and natural wonders. Verses in line breaks alternate with quicksilver, italicized pieces that limn, beyond mourning’s austere realm, splendor and progress in the outer world, lending an air of inviolable ritual, of profound mystery and renewal. In the face of the seemingly callous, ongoing world, Oldmixon has fashioned, through juxtaposition, concision, and artfully modulated silences, a sacred book of hours that deftly honors her irreplaceable husband and soulmate, a hard-won text that functions, in fact, as a poignant, shareable Dia de los Muertos altar.

—Cyrus Cassells, Is There Room for Another Horse on Your Horse Ranch?                                                                  

Texas Poet Laureate, 2021

Katherine Oldmixon Garza’s Life Afterlife / A Book of the Hours is dedicated to her deceased husband, Arturo, “the crane who flies over the hills—.” In these beautifully-wrought elegaic poems there is a wealth of memory and remarkable imagery. This is more than a collection that weaves together two lives. Each remembrance is separated from the next by a lyric image; the overall effect is a tapestry that transports the reader from the reality of loss to the dream world. Reading Life Afterlife / A Book of the Hours, I am most reminded of a hummingbird’s flight as it dips into blossom after vivid blossom in a garden that has survived the harshest weather. These moving poems transform her grief even as they transform our own. “I am a familiar in the spirit world,” Katherine writes. “Mira, the snapdragon shelters its seeds beneath its many calaveras, the roselle wraps them in waxy blankets of flower dead. / It feels like autumn here only in morning, summer by early afternoon.” I am grateful for the birth of this collection into our world’s tattered garden.

—Pamela Uschuk, Refugee

Professor Emerita of English at historic Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, Katherine Durham Oldmixon Garza taught world literature, creative writing, and language and culture. She holds a Ph.D. in medieval literature from University of Texas at Austin, an M.F.A. in creative writing from University of New Orleans, an M.A. in English (medieval literature and folklore), and a B.A. in English from University of Houston. 

Katherine directs the Poetry at Round Top festival held each spring in central Texas. She is a former poetry editor for Tupelo Quarterly and guest editor for Ilanot Review and Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. She also collaborated with composer Robert Skiles on the song, “Amor Encendido,” for which she wrote the lyrics. 

These days, when Katherine is not out visiting with friends and family, she lives in La Casa de la Luna Nueva, the Austin home she shared with her late husband Arturo, where she gardens, writes, listens to music (and sometimes dances, too), makes healing salves and art in various media, meditates and communes as one with the natural and metaphysical world in the great spiral of time.