Cover image for Distance and direction
Distance and direction
Kitchen, Judith.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Minneapolis : Coffee House Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
236 pages ; 19 cm
General Note:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3561.I845 D57 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



"The voice in these prose essays is window-pane clear, but with the power of sun through a magnifying glass. . . . This book is a treasurehouse."--Maxine Kumin

Lyrical, affecting, and blended with intelligent speculation on national history and literary legacy, Distance and Directions contains tender and lucidly-detailed homages to Fred Astaire's hands, Kitchen's aging father, the color blue and familiar and dreamed-about places.

Judith Kitchen has also written Only the Distance: Essays on Time and Memory, and has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, Anhinga Prize in Poetry, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches at SUNY-Brockport.

Author Notes

Judith Kitchen attended college in Vermont. After graduating, she worked as a part-time secretary, an assistant in a carnival supply business, with the New York state Poets in the Schools, and finally as an instructor at SUNY College at Brockport. For twenty years, she served as editor and publisher of the State Street Press Chapbook Series.

She wrote several books during her lifetime including Perennials, Writing the World: Understanding William Stafford, Only the Dance, Distance and Direction, Half in Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate, and The Circus Train. The House on Eccles Road won the S. Mariella Gable Prize in fiction. Her work has also won the Lillian Fairchild Award, the Anhinga Prize for poetry, and two Pushcart Prizes. She was the co-director of the Rainier Writing Workshop with her husband, Stan Sanvel Rubin. She died of cancer in November 2014 at the age of 73.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Kitchen has a light touch. She's a piccolo player, a bird, a watercolorist, a tightrope walker. Her essays are at once lyrical and staccato as she matches words to feelings and the world's amazing beauty, its poppies and hills, sunlight and shadows. Her essays, threaded through with memoir, are gentle and lithe studies of place and the complex emotions place arouses. Sketches of the secretive, orchard-laced terrain of upstate New York and the "landscape of the soul" that is Ireland call up thoughts of the deep, haunting past as well as of departed loved ones. Like a poet, Kitchen fixes on odd, resonant facts, such as Fred Astaire's dislike of his hands, which prompts musings on the divide between how others see us and how we see ourselves. Gliding, as the most fluent and stirring essayists do, between observation and philosophy, carefully collected knowledge and inexplicable impressions, the mutability of memory and experience and the steadfastness of the earth, Kitchen captures the shimmer of consciousness, the most fascinating place of all. Donna Seaman

Publisher's Weekly Review

The divide between poetry and prose blurs in this collection of personal meditations, which are connected by a heightened sense of place and space: "Sometimes the landscape settles inside you and makes room for nothing else." Kitchen (co-editor of In Short: A Collection of Brief Creative Nonfiction) practices a sort of literary feng shui, as the words find their own pattern and pool together in sentences of occasional beauty, but more often, a sprightly vagueness. She paints a small picture of Ireland, for example, that leaves us with an uninhabited framework of a sentence: "Its people worked and sang and prayed and learned to live with absence." The prettiness replaces substantive observation. Still, she can hit lovely, resonant notes when she anchors herself in one spot: "What is it we think no one sees that is evident to everyone but ourselves? ...Maybe it's the rough sole of the bare feet I tried too late to scrub each time I went into labor. The rough sole gone deep until it is part of personality." With an agile style and a wide range of reference and experience, Kitchen creates interesting moments, but the links between them are large, uncomfortable ideas that declare themselves rather than persuade: " The day is ahead of us, filling the spaces on the map with the solitary knock-knock of a woodpecker, the maybe of a deer come down to drink, thick deciduous forest that seems, the deeper we go, to open itself to our secrets. It all moved back toward metaphor." Alternately rewarding and frustrating, Kitchen's essays are too tender to leave us completely unmoved, but too disembodied to fully engage us. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Kitchen's second collection of essays (after Only the Dance: Essays on Time and Memory) concerns "distance and direction and the way memory works through and within landscape." Having begun as a writer of short stories and then cut her teeth on poetry (she has two collections to her name), Kitchen found her voice in the personal essay. The influence of poetry continues to show in these pieces, where she plays with ideas and language. In "Standard Time," for instance, she recalls childhood days on her grandparents' farm: "Daylight. Day delight. The calypso of four years old, early to rise into the dawn." Describing her brother's eyes in an essay that honors William Gass, she writes, "The shortest distance between two points, hypotenuse blue." Kitchen is a lecturer and writer-in-residence at SUNY at Brockport, and her title will be of interest to academic libraries, particularly those with creative writing programs. Nancy P. Shires, East Carolina Univ., Greenville, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Bluep. 15
Fred Astaire's Handsp. 19
Greenp. 31
Still Life with Flowersp. 35
Sonorap. 43
On Returningp. 45
White Mountainsp. 53
Distancep. 55
Kerryp. 63
Out of Placep. 65
Cedar Breaksp. 99
Lacrimosap. 101
Yellowp. 105
Directionp. 107
The Blasketsp. 117
Displacementp. 119
Bahia de Todos os Santosp. 145
Revolution in the Rainp. 149
Whitep. 161
Distance and Directionp. 163
Blackp. 171
Requiemp. 173
In the Endp. 179
Reminderp. 181
Port Townsendp. 185
Mix and Matchp. 187
Alert Bayp. 197
Richlandp. 199
Standard Timep. 201
Proportionp. 211
Redp. 229
Notesp. 233