'She Walks in Beauty,' a woman’s journey through poems

Story by Desiree Prieto

Caroline Kennedy came to San Antonio for a five-city launch tour promoting her new poetry anthology, She Walks in Beauty, A Woman’s Journey Through Poems. Titled after Lord Byron’s famous poem, the anthology includes works from other greats of English literature, such as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Amy Lowell and more. However, proudly featured alongside those greats are selections from the Alamo City’s own greats: Barbara Ras, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sandra Cisneros, and Rosemary Catacalos.

I had the humbling opportunity to attend Kennedy’s San Antonio tour, and appreciated not only reading stories from local women writers, but that San Antonio was representin’ with the likes of Caroline Kennedy. I fought the urge to raise my hand and announce that I too, am part of the local women writers scene. Who knows, maybe Kennedy’s next edition will include an installment, of my notorious “Chick-Lit.” Until then, I enjoyed reading the work of my predecessors and hopefully you will too. The idea for the anthology came to Kennedy on her 50th birthday, when friends sent her poems to commemorate the occasion.  Inspired to celebrate the stages of a woman’s life, Kennedy divided the anthology into several sections, from Falling in Love, to Marriage, Work and Motherhood.

Barbara Ras’ Secret Lives describes a risqué journey mothers may embark on together. These mothers “that smear peanut butter on bread” are the ones who are “talking about their bodies and what they did with them in Portugal, Hawaii, the coast of France, it’s better than cards, it’s anatomy and geography

” A personal favorite, Naomi Shihab Nye’s My Friend’s Divorce is a rhythmic story about her friend’s garden, representing a fresh start. In Little Clown, My Heart, Sandra Cisneros captures the emotional tantrums that come with romantic love through the youthful voice the author is famous for (“Spangled again and lopsided, Handstands and Peking pirouettes”). And Rosemary Catacalos’ Crocheted Bag, featured in the chapter on “Beauty, Clothes, and Things of This World,” reminded me of Gertrude Stein’s high modernism.

However, perhaps the dearest passage of the entire anthology wasn’t a poem, but a few sentences written by Kennedy herself:  “Collecting these poems reminded me that when I was younger, I thought my task was to forge ahead and succeed as an individual.  But growing older has helped me realize that our success lies in our relationships—with the family we are born into, the friends we make, the people we fall in love with, and the children we have.”

Caroline Kennedy has written and edited seven books on constitutional law, American history, politics, and poetry. None have included contributions from local writer and Gal about the Globe, Desiree Prieto, but I’m sure her next one will.

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