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Book Review :: In a Body by Emily Hockaday

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

In a Body, Emily Hockaday’s second poetry collection considers a body that “feels / less and less like mine,” and what it might be like to be “outside / of time.” The movement from corporeal to incorporeal suggests trauma and an “interconnected web of pain.” The poems, offered to readers by a mother of a daughter located at the crossroads of a “diagnosis” and “the other side of us,” allude to substance abuse, mental health, chronic pain, breast cancer, and a father’s death.

Given that, it is no wonder that the narrator declares: “I want to be like the Earth, / but I want to be treated better.” Seen via the “micro and macro,” the body of these poems is “compartmentalized” and “becoming”; the body is seen in relation or comparison; the body is seen “after,” “in,” “as,” “at,” “of,” “above,” “before,” “from,” and “through” “momentum” and “metamorphosis.”Poem titles offer the body “Becoming the Owl,” the “Body in the Spring”; “Body Above Water” or “Body as Wood,” etc.

The poet returns to the “Body as Tree” idea several times. When the body is seen as a tree, the mycelia connecting it to other trees is analogous to the “power” that neural pain “wields,” and the network of shared grief over personal and communal loss. Both the narrator’s diagnoses and the death of her father tell us the “body / is ephemeral.”

These poems remind us that we live precariously with “how many batteries / lie below the surface” and our “humanity’s failures.” Survival and recovery depend on “the knowledge that / anything can happen.”

Hockaday’s In a Body “understand[s] what it means / to be” in a “future … never / imagined.”

In a Body by Emily Hockaday. Small Harbor Publishing, October 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear.

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