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GOING HOME by Nancy  Richardson Kirkus Star


by Nancy Richardson

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-952326-22-6
Publisher: Kelsay Books

This volume of poetry thoughtfully considers national and personal upheavals.

In her latest collection, Richardson includes pieces from her two chapbooks and a full-length collection, An Everyday Thing (2018), alongside new poems, some previously appearing in literary magazines. In the six sections of the work, the author documents her experiences with the ghosts of memory, beginning with her native steel-mill town of Youngstown, Ohio. The Rust Belt is rich ground for poets responding to the ambiguities of a lost industry: In Youngstown, “the sky was a leaden haze, / where the soot was called ‘pay dirt.’ ” The book’s sequence then follows a trajectory through political engagement on behalf of justice, the shootings at Kent State University, the teaching of children with speech difficulties, marriage and family, illness and death, and, finally, homecoming. Richardson’s graceful lines have a striking clarity and discipline. In “Fathers,” the speaker remembers her own absent father and a friend’s abusive one, writing that she “thought this must / be what fathers do. Leave your life / or push you from your body.” In the wake of such absence, daughters anticipate a return, “his pale hands reaching out for you,” seven words that create a haunting, indelible sense of the uncanny. In several poems, the author attends to the voiceless, especially those caught in systems or conditions not of their own making. “The photos speak for themselves,” says the judge in “Kent State Trial, 1975.” But they don’t: “The photos held their tongues.” Work, so often the subject here, suggests a way to transform the past, as in the concluding poem, “Lost.” Lost in the woods and at a dead end, the speaker backtracks, discovering “the intersection where I / went wrong”—the only way to choose a different path.

Compassionate, well-crafted poems that look unflinchingly at loss, grief, and the tides of history.