Book of Days
by Jennifer Hill-Kaucher
I have this tradition (if something done for two years in a row can be considered a tradition) of having the first book I read in the New Year be a book of poetry. To me, there’s something peaceful and meditative and calming about easing into the year with verse. Last year it was Billy Collins’s Picnic, Lightning; this year, my selection was Jennifer Hill-Kaucher’s appropriately-titled poetry collection Book of Days.
So, even though I read this slim volume back on January 1, I’m posting the review today because one of the poems just resonated so very much with me and is apropos for today.
I first became acquainted with Jennifer’s work (although not Jennifer herself) through her husband Dan Waber, whom I met when I visited their store, Paper Kite Books in Kingston, PA (which is near Scranton). As Dan said during our conversation, “The only way to know what kind of poetry you like is to read a lot of it.”
Book of Days is a collection of 41 poems, each divided into seamless sections headed by a poem titled by a day of the week. To me, these poems are about the big and small moments that make up a life – the minor tasks that make up a Sunday afternoon (“Sunday”), sneaking a few moments to write in the car on a lunch break (“Muse”), the enjoyment of a good cup of coffee (“To Coffee”), microwaving a Lean Cuisine (“Monday”), driving the carpool (“Cribsheet”).
The different seasons are represented (“Wreath,” “Late Summer Inquiry”) and life stages (“Interview” and “Heart,” which is my absolute favorite poem in this collection – and one of my favorites of all time, actually – because I can relate to it all too well.
You see, today marks 27 years since we lost my dad. I was a sophomore in high school and all these years later, the feeling of everything becoming fragile, elemental, the last slow whirls falling to zero still very much remain.
My mother bought it because I begged
at the corner store that sold waxy penny candy.
I held it in the clear plastic box, a trophy
or airtight museum artifact.
Unsure of what it did, how it worked
My father threaded the string slowly
and turned it, winding like a bobbin.
One good pull and it stood on its own
inside its immobile armature, the center
a blur of gold and red, the wheel rigged
into a fine whir of air and little squeaks
like an animal pursued in the wood.
Every day that winter I took it to school,
watched it perform a balanced dance on my desk
between the boys and the tests until one Wednesday
my mother appeared at the door crushed
with news of death and everything became fragile
elemental, the last slow whirls falling to zero.
Jennifer Hill-Kaucher is a poet who deserves a much wider readership than she currently has. (I suppose that is the case for many poets.) You can read more of Jennifer’s poetry on her blog, Jenny Hill, which also gives information on how to order her books.
copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.