Rail: Poems

BOA. Apr. 2018. 104p. ISBN 9781942683582. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781942683599. POETRY
Do lonesome young men still hop freight trains? They do in Carlson-Wee's mournfully beautiful debut collection, which takes us through a world of "Boarded-up storefronts, burned-down/ apartments, highway signs that only name/ the dead." The poet's picture of a fading heartland captures the despair many Americans feel today, and he parallels economic and personal desperation; "I felt the roof of my head break and clatter/ to the floor," says a poem pointedly titled "Depression." Elsewhere, there's tenderness and a sense of wonder: "Butterfly caught in the backwind, dancing a dead loop./ Friends now, I…/ shelter him under my shirt."
VERDICT Carlson-Wee effectively uses repetition to build tension in poems that are deceptively simple and homey, and the tempered language draws readers into his heartfelt lines. Even those who don't typically read poetry will enjoy.

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