Friday, December 1, 2023

RC Wilson reviews Katie Daley's new book, Any Closer to Home

ANY CLOSER TO HOME by Katie Daley (2023, Finishing Line Press, Georgetown KY)
Review by RC Wilson:
Katie Daley is a performing poet who also writes for publication. A lot of writers work the other way around, writing for the page and reading aloud mostly when launching a new book. Katie has mesmerized audiences all over the country, but that does not make this book any less special. Just be aware that these poems were written to be spoken, almost sung. I suggest you find a good place to read them out loud, like incantations or spells. Take this book down in a tunnel, or out to the middle of a bridge, and speak her poems. Or better yet, borrowing an image from two of these poems, if you have access to an old grand piano, take a few blankets and make a nest for yourself under there and speak the poems, letting her words resonate with the taut wire harp above you. Just kidding. Read them anyway you want to but read them.
The book sort-of invites you to sing along. The first poem is titled “Artists’ Lullaby”, followed by quotes from Muddy Waters and Henry James. That unique pairing kind of announces the poet’s playful nature. It is a beautiful love poem with the poetic voice addressing the artist lover on “the last day on earth.” The images are synaesthetic, commingling vision and hearing into a single soothing sense. Daley is one of those ecstatic poets, who work the border between the ordinary and the miraculous. Her poems plead and extol for us to see the magic all around us hiding in plain sight. In her poem, “Homecoming,” she begins with:
"What do you call it, at dusk, after a long day’s drive,
when you hurry your suitcase through the rain
and are pulled up short by thousands of fireflies in the yard,
gliding like gondolas among the glimmering drops?"
The poem uses the second person narration to make this OUR experience, and yes, we are all pulled up short by such moments. She goes on to spell out our obligation to live large and lean into it, to taste the sacred rain. 
I love the individual poems, but also how well they are stitched together to make a coherent chapbook. We find ourselves dancing naked in the rain in one poem, and naked in a laundromat in another. A bottle of glue in the first poem is sought after in another poem. Living under a piano shows up as the beginning of one poem, and is echoed in another. Then there is the overall shape of the narrative, with defiant joy at the beginning and the end, all wrapped around a deep dive into grief and loss in the heart of the book. As I get older, poetry sometimes makes me cry. One of Katie’s poems set the record for me, and had me weeping two words into the first stanza, after a long title: “His Mother Still Speaks in the Present Tense When She Speaks of Him.” The first two words? “Tamir Rice…” This is a fine little book that expands greatly when you open it up.

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The poet doesn't invent. He listens. ~Jean Cocteau