Terri Kirby Erickson

Terri 1 (2)

Terri Kirby Erickson

  Terri Kirby Erickson is an educator, speaker, and the author of four collections of poetry, including In the Palms of Angels (Press 53, 2011), winner of three international awards, and A Lake of Light and Clouds (Press 53, 2014).  Her book, Telling Tales of Dusk (Press 53, 2009) was #23 on the Poetry Foundation Contemporary Best Seller list in 2010.  Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, 2013 Poet’s Market, Verse Daily,North Carolina Literary Review, JAMA, Asheville Poetry Review, storySouth, The Christian Science Monitor, and many other publications, and has won numerous awards, including a Nautilus Silver Book Award, and the Poetry for Their Freedom Award, sponsored by the A21 Campaign to stop human trafficking.  She was chosen as the Leidig Keynote Poet for Emory & Henry College in 2013, a distinguished honor shared over the years by such noted poets as Ted Kooser and Mark Doty.  She is a member of the Delta Kappa Gamma Society International, North Carolina Writers’ Network, North Carolina Writers Conference, and the North Carolina Poetry Society, and teaches poetry workshops in a variety of settings, including universities and high schools.  She lives in a small town in North Carolina, USA, with her husband, Leonard. 

For more information about Terri Kirby Erickson’s work, please visit www.terrikirbyerickson.com




TerriinfrontofApertureTheaterAug.29, 2014


Poems by Terri Kirby Erickson




Sponge Bath

(Excerpt, In the Palms of Angels, Press 53)



Draped in towels,

my grandmother sits in a hard-backed

chair, a white bowl


of soapy water on the floor. 

She lifts her frail arm, then rests it,


gratefully, in her daughter’s palm. 

Gliding a wet


washcloth, my mother’s hand

becomes a cloud, and every bruise, a rain-

drenched flower.






County Fair

(Excerpt, Telling Tales of Dusk, Press 53)



Pulled like rotten teeth from the open mouths

of mine shafts, massive pyramids of gleaming

coal dot the landscape of Kanawha County. 

Coal dust fine and black as pulverized midnight,

covers everything for miles.  Rows of ramshackle

houses kneel by the river like washer women

with their knees in river muck, and jagged

mountains cut the slate-gray sky


to ribbons.  But the Kanawha River is long

and winding, and leads to a lone Ferris wheel

rising up from the bottomland, jaunty

as an Easter bonnet.  Its rainbow-colored gondolas

call to mind a different tune than the dismal dirges

of Black Lung and White Damp.  They carry the sound

of children’s laughter through the ground

and into the mines, like light.








(Excerpt, A Lake of Light and Clouds, Press 53)



A woman, newly blind, has watched the light

fade softly, making a sound like rain. 


Once, colors were torrential—

shapes, a downpour.  Now the patter of memory


is all she has left—faces of friends, words

on a page, falling


leaves, her own body—all gone from her sight,

all lost in the swirling


fog.  She does not cry.  Instead, she places her

hands each day, on the life


that she remembers—tender, adoring,

as if it is a lover, sleeping with her in the dark. 

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