The Renunciations: Poems

Graywolf. May 2021. 72p. ISBN 9781644450536. pap. $16. POETRY
Kelly’s second collection retains the metaphor-heavy character of her debut, Bestiary, but exchanges that collection’s mode of zoomorphism and mythology for something more elemental. The collection reckons with dual traumas and vacillates between delicate introspection and brutal honesty. The book is impeccably structured, each subsequent section—titled “Then” and “Now”—alternating between its twinned narrative threads and building to a gale force across its concise page count. “House of Air, Hours of Fire,” the collection’s opening poem and the only one to exist outside of its prescribed segments, powerfully forecasts both the thematic texture and shattering catharsis to follow: “my dad was born to bear, to share, his burden. / I was his dominion, a bit of land / turned to use.” But it’s Kelly’s masterly balance of tone—as she shuttles her attention between such disparate traumas as sexual predation and the moment when two lovers’ bodies no longer seem to fit together—that will linger longest, resulting in moments of gentle, heartbreaking melancholy: “did I not think, / my love, there at the moment / the ending began like a rock / slipped into the bay?”
VERDICT Kelly’s second effort feels scraped raw, seeking to understand humanity in primal terms in the same way as her debut, but here building to even grander emotional and linguistic crescendo.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing