I was the first person on the planet to buy a copy of this book. I consider that a special privilege because it's the best book I've read this year and would rank among my favorites of all time.
Though I was familiar with Patricia Lockwood's poetry before the book came out, the nature of her work means that familiarity doesn't preclude surprise. There are beautiful moments, glimpses of images that sneak up on the reader out of nowhere ("she was soft as map creases are"), only to recede as quickly as they came. My favorite thing about the poems, though, is their unexpected inevitability. They lead in unimaginable directions but always according to their own internal logic ("but the railroad / is coming out this way and we must give them a smear / to see through the windows"). When they arrive they ARRIVE. Lockwood's thoughts weave as if through a maze that only she can navigate, each turn in a different direction from the one we might expect. I think that's a measure of great poetry, the unexpected moment that stays with you, like a surprise party or an explosion. This book is a collection of moments I wish I'd thought of myself.
These 16 poems -- particularly the three long prose pieces that are the collection's framework -- teem with imagination. Readers of Lockwood's epic Twitter account have seen how far she can carry an image in 140 characters, but over a hundred pages the cumulative effect is astonishing.
I'm not someone who is normally found reading poetry. But I have carried this book around with me for weeks now, sneaking quick reads from it when I have the chance. It is interesting and different and really makes you wonder what it means. I really enjoy this book a lot and plan to read more Lockwood as soon as possible.
Lockwood has become a bit of a darling in the poetry and literary world, deservedly so. Her recent work, to my mind, puts her in the same orbit as Dorothy Lasky and Matthea Harvey. This collection may not be as good as I would have hoped but it is an earlier work. Still a stunning use of allegorical metaphor that is playful, snide, earnest, & much more sophisticated than most who write in the same style.