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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.

New Book :: The Optimist Shelters in Place

The Optimist Shelters in Place by Kimberly Ann Priest book cover image

The Optimist Shelters in Place by Kimberly Ann Priest
Small Harbor Publishing, April 2022

While The Optimist Shelters in Place by Kimberly Ann Priest isn’t so brand new, we continue to help spotlight titles that may have been overlooked during the pandemic years, which is no irony intended on this particular title. Priest is the author of several other collections: Slaughter the One Bird (Sundress 2021)finalist for the American Best Book Award, as well as the chapbooks Parrot Flower (Glass 2021), Still Life (PANK 2020), and White Goat Black Sheep (Finishing Line Press 2018). Each poem in this newest book plays on the title, starting with “The Optimist,” which adds a weighted perspective as they reflect on the poet’s time during the shutdown. There are some humorous titles that I’m sure many readers will relate to, such as “The Optimist Takes a Personality Test,” “…Spends a Lot of Time on Pinterest,” “…Tries a New Recipe for BBQ Chicken,” “…Doesn’t Wash Her Hair,” but also some that will draw the reader in with their more allusive considerations, “…Imagines What It Would be Like if Her Daughter Were Actually Dead,” “…Remembers What is Needed to Feel Essential,” and the great closing poem, “…Sleeps Through the Night.” Priest is an associate poetry editor for the Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry and Assistant Professor at Michigan State University. Find her work at kimberlyannpriest.com.