I wanted to start writing some reviews of my favorite books from 2014. Here's the first installment.
Render – Collin Kelley
Sibling Rivalry Press, Alexander, Arkansas
Did you ever, early in a friendship or romance, take out a shoebox of old photographs, dump them on the floor, then commence to narrating your life using snapshots and the stories behind, or between them? That is akin to the experience of reading Collin Kelley’s book of poems Render. From the first poem, with its glimpse at an ancestor’s face blacked out, perhaps “the ruin of the family”, the reader is invited into the poet’s life story. In this case the deletions tell as much as the details.
The images that follow will be familiar to any child of the ‘70s; the Bicentennial, Wonder Woman, feathered hair, the Magic 8 Ball. Each pop culture artifact pointing, with archeological specificity, to a particular where and when. But a child of any time will recognize the themes of adolescent longing and loss, the caste system of high school, a family in decline, and the hunger for love.
Kelley artfully builds tension both within the individual poems and throughout the arc of the collection. In “After Adultery” the Mother in the poems “marches down the long driveway, / kicks up dust like the Tasmanian Devil” but instead of cartoon havoc, leaves a “crazed shadow.” While the mother succumbs to paranoia and illness, female nurturance and inspiration are found in Farrah’s hair and Pam Grier’s strength.
The objects of affection or lust, the “you” or “he” of many of the poems receive some of the most poignant lines in the book.
“I become device and vessel….
…would lie to your face
if I ever saw it….
Like those long, sleepover conversations, the stories come. The secrets, the heartbreaks, all of it surrounding each brightly colored or washed out paper image. Render is a raw and beautiful delineation of one poet’s growing up.
Render has received the following acclaim:
*Selected for American Library Association's 2014 Over the Rainbow List
*2013 Best Book of the Year selection by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Split This Rock, The Scrapper Poet and Rattle Readers' Favorites.