Project Bookshelf: Kimberly Ann Priest

I have several bookcases. Each bookcase is a wood constructed piece of furniture that I either purchased second hand or found for free on the side of the road and refurbished myself.

I love refurbishing furniture. So much, in fact, that I would love to own a used bookstore that also houses an eclectic collection of refurbished bookshelves (all for sale) as well as a plethora of plants (also for sale). Did I mention I love plants? I do.

My apartment is styled around refurbished furniture, plants, and books. The more decorative books include volumes of photographs and biographies of classic movies from the 1930s through the 1960s. Among my favorites are Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, and Groucho Marx. I also collect travel photography books from the various locations I visit on road trips across the US. And then there are plant books, of course, because—as I said—I love plants. IMG_0659

Most of my other books are divided by genre—psychology, nonfiction, and poetry being my favorite. I’ve always been least into fiction, having a mind that is more satisfied by scientific inquiry, especially explorations of the psyche and social behaviors. Most of my own poetry and nonfiction work is more influenced by relational interaction and psychological questions than anything else.

When it comes to poetry, I prefer twenty and twenty-first-century poets, as well as ancient Eastern poetry like Japanese haiku or the modern romanticism of Nizar Kabbani and sensual spirituality of Yehuda Amichai. (Even as I write this, I am in the midst of composing poems that interact with Kabbani’s Love Letters.) Other than Eastern poetry, I’m mostly an Americanist. I enjoy W. S. Merwin, Dorothea Lasky, Kyoko Mori, Afaa Weaver, Dorianne Laux, Joy Harjo, and so many others. I particularly appreciate a book of poetry that stops me dead in my tracks and demands hours of contemplation. One such book is Rebecca Lindenberg’s Love: An Index. Her grief and affection are so poignant, desperate, and intuitive they beg me to sit and savor silently.

IMG_0661My affinity for poetry and psychology probably began quite young. I grew up on Biblical poetry—the meditations found in the Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, and Song of Songs, as well as other poetry sprinkled throughout the religious text. Early on, I veered away from religious didacticism and embraced a more artistic spirituality as well as an intellectual interest in wisdom literature. For this reason, my bookcases also contain literature from wisdom traditions, ancient Near Eastern mythology, and some astrology.

All of my bookshelves reflect my dedication to the intellectual pursuit, aesthetic awareness, and obsession with classic Hollywood. I am always seeking connections between spirituality, psychology, and human behavior, always relishing a bold, intuitive poem,IMG_2080 and always plotting my next project based on the inspiration I receive from current reading material, relationships, and the natural world.

In fact, at this point in life, it is the natural world that beckons me more and I may expand my intellectual interests to include environmental studies in the near future. And why not? There’s still room in my apartment for another roadside-find refurbished bookcase!



Kimberly Ann Priest is a professor of first-year writing at Michigan State University, a poet, and a mother of two very-recently-inaugurated young adults. She likes to buy coffee mugs from coffee shops that impress her during her travels. Though she’s already visited nearly all of the forty-eight mainland United States, she will never turn down a road trip. You will either find her contemplating life and writing poetry or cruising in her Mini Cooper “Marilyn” (Monroe). This year, she has work forthcoming in The Coachella Review and Glass Poetry.



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