I go to Cait O’Kane’s A BRIEF HISTORY OF BURNING for jittery scorched poet gaze, I go to Cait O’Kane for sharp angles on alt news “lamppost surveillance”. The bloody curtains open on daily wounds and rounds, ghetto’s difficult opiod dawn, where people die and “credit is a cage”. Demons lodged in city’s ragged state of mind. I go to Cait O’Kane for the wrestle in Capitalocene, no wiggle room for angels. Yet angels stand witness. I go to Cait O’Kane for her spiritual queerdom, her rhythmic uncompromising slant, and imagination. I go to Cait O’Kane for allegiance to Burroughsian word as killer virus, and Amiri Baraka’s clarion for centuries’ overdue justice and Sean Bonney’s stride. I go to Cait O’Kane for wit, stamina and urgency, for brainy nuance inside millennial think-speak and how it transforms to resistance. I go to Cait O’Kane for how she articulates the Zeitgeist best, inner passion from from the underbelly up. I go to Cait for the wild things fleeting in and out of hyper consciousness. Poetry and performance ground this public poet in quivering screed-paeans of time and space. Give it up to Cait, pure produce of American karmic curse and promise. This first book secures the promise.
Poetry is primarily a bourgeois genre with bourgeois concerns. But Cait O’Kane has gone deep into the troubles of the contemporary world and written out of them as if they can be exorcised. The result is a hard book, tough, and built to change you in the best sort of ways.
Born in a year of fire, in the year Philly police bombed a row house and subsequently burned down more than sixty other homes while the city watched the spreading flames on television, Cait O’Kane has since watched many flames engulf her city and country; flames of illness and addiction; of food and work and family instability; of no second chances; of no first chances; of political and cultural invisibility; of bearing witness, since too early an age, to how incredibly hard it is for many in the American underclass just to get through the day. Her first poetry collection, A Brief History of Burning, is a triumph. These are poems of the body and the earth, driven by music and rhythm and a deep, probing intelligence as well as by a faith, a hope, that speaking our truths––no matter how painful, and even if only to ourselves––might save us. You’ll feel in her lines the power of Lorde and Ginsberg and Baraka and Knight and many others as surely as you feel that you are in the presence of an exciting new voice in American poetry, a strong and urgent voice that has “swallowed a thousand bees,” yet learned to sing.
—Daniel Donaghy, author of Somerset, co-winner of the Paterson Poetry Prize
Cait O’Kane was born in Philadelphia and currently lives there with family. She attended a state university in Pennsylvania before spending two years as the Anne Waldman Fellow at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University. For most of her life, Cait worked in supermarkets, in kitchens, on farms, and in warehouses. Along with Devin Brahja Waldman, Cait currently makes music in a band called Notable Deaths.