The Author: Katherine E. Young
The Book: Woman Drinking Absinthe
The Genre: Poetry
Lives In: Arlington
The Story: While a collection of poems doesn’t have a plot, Young says some definite themes emerged when she sorted through her works to determine which should be included in her latest volume, published in March. “It’s basically about the terrible things that human beings do to one another,” she says. “How people mistreat one another, but also how people respond when they are mistreated or when they behave badly themselves. How do they make amends? How do they heal? What do they find to hold onto when it seems that things are going very, very wrong?” Now an independent literary translator of Russian works, Young spent much of her professional life involved with Soviet politics and first became enamored with poetry while living in Russia in the 1990s. Her time there very much influenced her style. “I like poems that have a political edge to them,” she says. “I like speaking for a broader, communal sense, and that’s a very Russian thing.”
NoVA Connections: Young served as Arlington’s first poet laureate from 2016 to 2018, and every one of the poems in Woman Drinking Absinthe was written there. But instead of directly referencing Northern Virginia, she says there’s an anonymous suburban quality about the poems that don’t necessarily place the reader in the area. “If you were reading it in California, would you know this is an Arlington book? No. But you might figure it out if you had some background here,” she says. Clues can be found in such poems as “Soul Food,” which was inspired by a now-closed restaurant near Bailey’s Crossroads, and another called “Nakhla,” which spotlights a meteor rock from Mars now found at the National Air and Space Museum.