After the Poison by Collin Kelley
(Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, KY 2008)
Collin Kelley is a poet of considerable stylistic power and range. Some of his poems vent an anger gratifying to anyone who shares his outrage (probably anyone to the left of Generalissimo Franco), but others move beyond this into the realm of heartbreak. After the Poison is a breviary of laments on the horrors and hypocrisies of our time.
“Patty Hearst on the Occasion of Her Presidential Pardon” reaches into the past in a mock manifesto. For the moment the sardonic wit of the piece is a consolation.
Only in California will they let you keep
your rock star shades on for the mug shot.
I looked like a starlet.
But Kelley is not merely a satirist. He knows when the simple statement of fact is more chilling than any device. “Human Trafficking” describes an attempt to identify the body of a child of seven. These lines will haunt me forever.
Three hundred black boys
have disappeared in London
as police determine this one
came from Nigeria
by the density of his bones.
At times Kelley confronts human tragedy with lines that beat with the drive of a Greek chorus. “In Harlem” examines the tensions of the street.
Someone’s got a bomb, someone’s got a gun,
and the prayers that come and go, bouncing off
brick walls, between the muddled hallelujahs,
sounds like someone whispering fire, fire, fire.
It is a cliche to say of a poet that he writes as if his hair is on fire. Collin Kelley writes as if the world is on fire. And it is.
Robert E. Wood is an Associate Professor in the School of Literature, Communication, and Culture at Georgia Tech. His film studies include essays on Fosse, DePalma, and Verhoeven, as well as The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He is the author of Some Necessary Questions of the Play, a study of Hamlet. His poetry has appeared recently in flashquake, Poetry Midwest, Quiddity, Quercus Review, Hamilton Stone Review, The Sylvan Echo and Umbrella. Poems are forthcoming in Blue Fifth Review, Motel 58 and War, Literature, and the Arts. Previous poetry publications include Chattahoochee Review, Wind, Southern Humanities Review, and South Carolina Review.