A foray, a meander, a meditation on time and things and the making and makings of days—such are rough terms that one could use to describe Simone Kearney’s DAYS, a debut volume rich with cultural detail, all strung on threads of rigorous thought. Kearney sets forth not to mark time (days) but to follow words on the move, words liberated from any expectation as to what they might attract or what they might generate. My own experience as I read through the book’s sequence of 108 interlinking seven-line poems was one of delighted, intense, and full out engagement—an experience I’ve repeated three times and will repeat again. Kearney’s DAYS is (are) superbly expansive, proof that time isn’t ticks of a clock but “place in the field, field, field, more field.”
In Simone Kearney’s DAYS, words are adequate to describe the failures of words, but the speaker recognizes this very adequateness indicates the failure is misattributed to words when it ought to be attributed to the users of words, who cannot break free from one word to get to the next word, and so smear, and so blur, the things they say even as they say them. DAYS is a race to get from one word to the next. DAYS is a life-expanding race to get from one word to the next, and as daring a first book as I’ve ever read.
The poet who experiences drama in self-reflection, who feels increasing dread and particularity, separation as abandonment and then specifically wonder. She enters the magnificent temple of the given world. She could be Simone Weil with no notebook or Lyn Hejinian as an orphan with no past. The ugly thing is man-made-in-America. She could almost be in an ER with only her thoughts to survive on. Her verses begin short and swift, then lengthen and almost repeat. That dreaded loop! But she jumps off. Very bare and undefended, she still knows what it is to lay down her life (and herself) for an imperative of her own making.
The task of DAYS is nothing less than that of lyric poetry itself: to find language commensurate with the complexities of experience. Kearney, who posits consciousness as “disheveled verb,” thematizes this quest with bracing straightforwardness, cheerily knocking down the “wall of language that blocks speech” and spreading it out into a fluid, a field—a commons of possibility and play. Capricious, ingenious and critically astute; intrepidly literary and replete with idiosyncratic pop and flourish (“my love, you are the hen, lay, lay your words down”), DAYS should be seized and succumbed to over and again, like time and air and light.
Simone Kearney is a writer and artist living in New York. She is the author of the chapbooks My Ida (Ugly Duckling Press, 2017) and In Threes (minutes BOOKS, 2013). Her poems have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Lithub, Boston Review, St. Ann’s Review, Riot of Perfume, PEN Poetry Series, and elsewhere. She teaches at The New School.