Half-Hazard: Poems

Graywolf. Nov. 2018. 72p. ISBN 9781555978228. pap. $16. ebk. ISBN 9781555978730. POETRY
Nearly 20 years in the making, this debut collection from a prolific children's author won the Poetry Foundation's Emily Dickinson First Book Award and was previously a Yale Younger Poets Prize finalist and a Walt Whitman Award semifinalist: evidently, it was worth the wait. Written in an open, conversational voice, the collection begins with the speaker saying "Good-bye, Trouble," walking away from her rural, Bible-Belted beginnings toward what she assumes will be a brighter future ("Trouble makes trouble and soon Trouble went poof"). But life doesn't always oblige. "My life was going by. Year. Cake. Year. Cake.// And no circus," she says later, and she can't help acknowledging her students' problems ("—An alcoholic father, a sad-faced mother") or recalling the pet rabbit lost to her carelessness and the cow who will doubtless die from eating barbed wire. Yet she also commemorates rescuing a baby jay and must conclude "even if the world is half bad, it remains/ half-good."
VERDICT Empathetic, accessible reading.
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