The Cold and the Rust: Poems

Persea. Mar. 2018. 72p. ISBN 9780892554881. pap. $15.95. POETRY
Winner of the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, this debut revisits a queer childhood on Michigan's Upper Peninsula, in a hometown so desolate that "even teenagers know better// than to believe in immortality." It's a landscape of dirty snow and frozen lakes, abandoned buildings and multiplying deer, where "the rifle's chamber [is] explicable," "Georgine smashes the shotglass/ because it is too empty," and "We are a people who try not/ to lead by example." Van Kley expertly captures the bleakness in laconic language, deftly balancing the exterior world and her interior, struggling self. "The place is still there/ you can't imagine how unchanged," but the speaker brims with restlessness and intelligence, and her portrait of a place she etches with acid and some tenderness is persuasive.
VERDICT Forthright language that invites in all readers.

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