Monday, August 2, 2021
Lily-Livered, by Wren Hanks, a wonderful chapbook from Driftwood Press, first up in my pursuit of the Sealey Challenge to read a poetry book a day in August. The fabulous cover art is by Denis Sarazhin, cover design by Sally Franckowiak, and book design by James McNulty. I loved finding an interview with the author at the end, conducted by Jerrod Schwarz, co-founder of the press. I learned so much from both the poems and the interview. "I don't know how to exist as a trans person," says the poet in the interview, "even one with a good deal of privilege, without wondering whether I'm safe every time I'm out in public." I think of one of the poems in the book, the last one, as the "safe" poem. Titled "Transiversary," as are several in the book, honoring the date the poet began medical transition with testosterone, it begins, "The therapist is safe" and lists what else is safe, and I sigh with relief and awe at the poet's resilience and triumph. I love the poet's handling of form and content--how they interact--all through: repeated lines, resonating as in a sonnet crown, plus great wild rambling moments and prose poems; rich and risky. And I love what the poet says about "speaker" in the interview: "The speaker of the poem has a job to do, and it's not the same job as if you were telling this same story at a party or a friend's couch. In my opinion, the speaker exists to serve the poem's truth, not to relay every detail of a moment just as you remember them." Lots of other good advice here, too. Lily-Livered begins with an epigraph from Macbeth, from a moment where a scared boy brings a message during battle, and ends courageous, compassionate, and, I hope, at last, safe.