by Kirsten Morgan
Second Place Winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize 2023
Few people understand the unique reality faced by women who are impoverished, underserved and, certainly, unseen. This collection of poetic observations derives from years of volunteer work, both at a homeless clinic and a women’s day shelter, where the author listened to tales stranger than fiction, guided them into written form and became determined to spread these stories through her own poetry. By seeing the human side of inhumane existence, perhaps we can acknowledge and honor women who face fear, anger and degradation while also summoning courage, integrity and hope.
Early Praise for Inside Out:
“I admire how fearlessly these poems bear witness to those who have lived lives most of us cannot fathom, and in this they are attempts to beatify—to make sacred—these women. The poems break and mend my heart for a multitude of reasons, but mostly via the small details and images (‘backseats of cars after dark,’ ‘poems…flung onto paper’). In this way, the book is a collection of odes, powerful expressions of love and compassion.”
—Michael Henry, Executive Director, Lighthouse Writers Workshop
“In Inside Out, Kirsten Morgan engages with a practice of accompaniment—that is, she walks alongside vulnerable and unhoused women for whom ‘help was a theory / and stuck a way of life.’ Listening not just to speakers’ narratives but to each woman’s distinct language of survival, Morgan searches ‘for their stories around / the edges.’ In so doing, she finds ‘wonders everywhere.’ This is poetry of witness, always rich with humor and imagination. Many poets do not realize that imagination is a necessary element of empathy. Inside Out conveys an empathy that transforms sorrow to resilience.”
—Elizabeth Robinson, author of Excursive and Thirst & Surfeit, winner of a 2022 Pushcart Prize
“A powerful work of empathic imagination. In these searing poems of witness and service, Kirsten Morgan gives voice to the voiceless and takes us into a world most would prefer not to see.”
—John Brehm, author of Dharma Talk and No Day at the Beach
“Inside Out is an astounding poetry collection—a startling, superb account of women who’ve experienced homelessness, addiction, domestic violence and other indignities. ‘This life is unkind,’ one poem suggests, ‘to health and can’t / remember ease.’ Told about those who struggle daily on the ‘snapping streets,’ the book never devolves into trite predictability; never sacrifices poetic craft for mere self-expression. These women experience harsh lives, honed sharp by raw pain. Yet their difficult stories never outweigh their deepest truth: they are truth-tellers who’ve rightfully earned their seat at the literary table.”
—Joy Roulier Sawyer, author of Lifeguards
About the Author
Kirsten Morgan has taught poetry to children in an independent school, elders in a lifelong learning program, and clients of The Gathering Place, a day shelter for homeless and impoverished women. She is a longtime member of Denver’s Lighthouse Writers Workshop, has published many poems in literary journals and was a finalist for The Birdy Prize from Meadowlark Press. She is the author of Without Skipping a Beat: A Child’s Heart Transplant Journey, editor of One Day, One Night at a Time: Women Write of Poverty, Homelessness and Hope, and co-editor of An Uncertain Age: Poems by Bold Women of a Certain Age. Kirsten hikes, snowshoes, reads incessantly and writes prose and poetry delightedly, in Denver and snuggled into her house deep in the mountains.