“A poet cannot read another poet, nor a novelist another novelist, without comparing their work to his own. His judgements as he reads are of this kind: My God! My Great Grandfather! My Uncle! My Enemy! My Brother! My imbecile Brother!” ~W.H. Auden
This is the first book of Laura McKee’s I have read. It was the 2016 Miller Williams Poetry Prize winner.
Some poets like Jane Hirshfield resonate immediately with me. I read them and I know that I have found a poet that will be a companion for the rest of my days.
I say “some poets.” But what I mean more accurately is that sometimes when I am reading a new volumes of poetry by an unfamiliar poet I immediately see something closer to what I like in poetry, and the kind of poetry I would like to write myself.
There are other volumes that have poetry I admire but is so much different from what I want to write myself.
I can enjoy this latter kind of poetry. And I take a lot away from it, but not in the same way.
McKee’s style is challenging for me in the way that prose poetry always is. The denseness of words on the page and the compact nature of the language, metaphors, and images that jammed together always feels like heavy lifting. It is an intimidating poetry, and more like work than play most of the time for me to read.
Having said that, there is still much to be admired. Here are a few of my favorite lines so far.
Sunlight, in the place of bonfires warmed the charcoal-covered sand.
Water carried their voices across. From that place
it seemed all of us were there.
- * * * * * * * * * *
insects, stars, smell of earth
cooling. This is no place for infinity.
I am changing my end for a way back
to the beginning.