Looking for Effie

Perhaps the aim on which we placed our mind
Is high, and its attainment slow to find;
Or if we reach the mark that we have set,
We still would seek another, farther yet.
Thus all our youth, our strength, our time go past
Till death upon the threshold stands at last,
And back unto our Maker we must give
The life we spent preparing well to live.

—Effie Waller Smith, “Preparation”


This is a story of an unlikely poetic friendship and its evolution. It’s a meditation on the silences of women who write. And it’s a mystery—a story of a writer whose works had been almost completely lost to us prior to the 1980s and of the authorship of poems and stories which until quite recently has been hard to confirm. The friendship story begins in Lexington, Kentucky on January 28, 2015, at the induction ceremony for the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. That night Wendell Berry would become the first living writer to receive this honor. Berry was the main reason for the crowd that overflowed the large rooms of the hundred-year-old Carnegie library that evening.

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Leatha Kendrick is the author of three volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Almanac of the Invisible. Her poems and essays have been widely anthologized, and she is a two-time recipient of the Al Smith Fellowship in Poetry from the Kentucky Arts Council and has received fellowships from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. Her MFA in Poetry is from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and leads workshops at the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning.

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