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Book Review :: Spit by Daniel Lassell

Spit poetry by Daniel Lassell book cover image

Guest Post by Catherine Hayes

Daniel Lassell’s Spit harnesses the power of language to contemplate whether to embrace one’s own roots or to cast them off in favor of creating a new identity for a new life, and as such influences our sense of belonging. This conflict is one that Lassell grapples with for many years of his life, blending these two identities of past and future together to become “a city boy inside / the body of a country.” Part one recounts “sopping, hazy Kentucky” and when “a chicken costs 35 cents.” The natural world reigns supreme in this setting. The old barn on the land which “season by season… / have held their angle, onto the metal gate / leaned against a post pile for storage, / some form of pillar” soon gives way as “the field outside waits, / watching the barn’s leaning face / disappear” and nature has won against that which man has made. Yet the supremacy of nature does not last for long, nor does Lassell’s life in the country. The second and third parts make the progressive transition from “a hundred acres / into one” and by the final section, Lassell has completely immersed himself in the “concrete slabs” and “crumbling sidewalk squares” of the city. Yet his years on the farm never leave Lassell, for even in the city he recalls “hoisting bales up to a hay wagon” and “not waking during night / to car lights, sirens, hunger” and how, despite having “climbed from being / of dirt, rough fingernails,” his past will always be with him, no matter the distance or passage of time. Lassell’s poignant yet heart-warming story about what defines “home” presents a new meaning to the influence of upbringing and how sometimes home is not a physical place we return to but the memories we cherish that help guide us into the uncertainty of adulthood.

Spit by Daniel Lassell. Michigan State University Press, July 2021.

Reviewer bio: Catherine Hayes is a graduate student in English at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and resides in the Boston area. She has previously published a nonfiction essay in an anthology with Wising Up Press. When she is not reading, writing, or reviewing she can be found exploring Boston, spending time with family and friends and looking for inspiration for her next story in the world around her. 

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