Reed Books: No Matter The Wreckage


No Matter the Wreckage by Sarah Kay is a collection of the poems published by the previously online-exclusive author, and, while lacking more political or societal pieces, focuses more on the poet’s personal life and emotions. This transfer from the more angry, big-picture modern poetry that is common on the Internet to an almost old-fashioned (yet free verse) version of poetry in Kay’s collection is refreshing, and each poem is executed well.

One of the best in the book is “Forest Fires”, in which Kay explores her grandmother’s illness, her own near-death experience, and her father’s way of handling emotions in a page and a half. She begins by showcasing her father purchasing different, unnecessary online things to cope, and quickly jumps to her trip to California. She compares her experience there with the forest fires that would soon eat up most of the area, and finally leaps to her grandmother’s bedside in the hospital. In these opening stanzas, Kay has set the stage for the development that would follow. As she goes back to explaining the natural disaster in CA, she further develops her father’s behavior by having him point out a commercial for a kitchen utensil, linking these two together. She hops between these three subplots, landing in the last stanza with the three subjects, herself, her father, and her grandmother, in the same room. “My father watches from the bedside chair,/his mother and daughter strung together/with tightrope hands, fingers that look/like his own. And somewhere in California/a place I once stood is burning”. In these last lines, Kay hits the reader with the realization; the people she’s come from are falling. 

The rest of the collection follows with this kind of poem – many are lengthy and sweet, but a few fillers distract the reader from an otherwise effective group.