Melissa's Reviews > Book of Days

Book of Days by Jennifer Hill-Kaucher
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Jan 02, 2012

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bookshelves: books-i-own, poetry
Read in January, 2012

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.

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.

Heart

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.


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