“They knew the rain was coming; the shadow had fallen over Old Kuttawa months ago.”
We Knew No Mortality: Memories of Our Spiritual Home, released in March 2018 by Acta Publications, represents six years of writing and over 100 years of family history.
“We Knew No Mortality is a memory quilt sewn with spells, floods, and pink wounds. Shoemaker’s words shed to reveals themselves like a creature in crystallized grass-flats. This book is more than just a book. It’s a shared cigarette behind the boiler room. It’s a song for America-forgotten.”
— Sarah Escue, editor at The Adirondack Review
“As he attempts to collage the past to retell his family’s multilayered history, Shoemaker reveals that you, reader, are the sum of our environments; you are a collage, a fractal, an assemblage, a mosaic of filaments, known and unknown. You, too, originate from mud and shared blood. Along this journey of rediscovery, Shoemaker encounters dirty habits, penguin-like nuns with slapping sticks, and old winding back roads. In a way, he resurrects his past and his longing for a now distant childhood of rolling and running in the bluegrass with bare feet…We too experience a longing for home, a sanctuary filled with bluegrass and open ceilings. He tills memory and recites his dead; he sings hymns of ‘am’ and ‘am nots’: ‘I am not an architect, / I am a song.’“
— Sarah Escue, for Something on Paper
“You are the sum of your environments,
and no more.
Be light as feathers
and full in the belly,
put your hand into yourself and stir—
can you pull yourself out?”
“As the first section of We Knew No Mortality suggests, in these poems, at once elegant and welcoming, there is a recurring theme of the latent emerging, the ghost manifesting. Memory—inherited and personal—overlays the present, Jesus returns to wash us white as snow, capitalism reaches its culmination and fails. But latent potential and promise also surface and are realized, or at least the reader hopes for this. And hope matters, as any tender boy from a small town will tell you. The poems travel in a steady pace from Henderson, Kentucky, to Rome, to Chicago, and all the while we are reminded by these varied yet centered poems of how home is always present, even as the details of one’s life shift.”
— J’Lyn Chapman, author of Beastlife
“In We Knew No Mortality, Robert Eric Shoemaker travels back to his “ole Kentucky” town with Wally World and walks down memory lane. Here, family yarns of money buried in fruit jars and crucifixes sacrificed to storms coexist with a drug trip, retreat to Italy, and return to a sanctified self. With compassion and insight, Shoemaker considers his heritage and landscape, the “comfort and problems peculiar to the rural,” and the nature of spiritual homecoming. He writes: “I wipe my face in the mud. I can see my reflection.” Read this book and follow his lead.”
— Gabrielle Civil, author of Swallow the Fish