Molly McCully Brown
Molly McCully Brown’s poetry collection, “The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded” (Persea Books, 2017), winner of the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, summons historical shadows along with bright beams of empathy and identity. Exploring the lives of those who were institutionalized within and employed by the Colony from Fall 1935 to Fall 1936, Brown’s poems lead us from dormitory to solitary confinement—“the Blind Room”—out into the field, the chapel, the infirmary, and back into the dormitory ... Attentive to the individual bound with physical and mental difference, the collection calls up the cries and scarce laughter, the whimpering and swearing and silence of the bodies within its walls.
The poems of David Eye’s collection, “Seed”, (The Word Works, 2017), remind us to breathe, to sit inside the shimmering, heartbreaking moment, to stop and wonder and laugh. Here is a world curtained in nature, rapture, fertility, and desire, while, beyond, lies a horizon constrained and fragile and full of possibility. Relationships—the “father, filling the doorway,” the “boy slapped into manhood,” the “pretty mother,” the “sister, nearly four,” the “smiling aunt,” the cousin “in the City,” the lovers with their “breathless kisses”—wrap themselves together, then wrest themselves apart, and we are reminded of the addition, subtraction, and division that mark a lifetime. Discovery occurs and recurs in the act of turning inward to view a past, to understand the instant when everything changed, to open and examine and somehow make peace. “Seed” reveals how beginnings are intricate, how journeys are remembered by what lay underfoot—“the sweet, sharp scent of sun on dry needles”—and how we return from the wondrous, reckless place where we began.
Mary Cisper’s debut poetry collection, “Dark Tussock Moth,” winner of the 2016 Trio Award (Trio House Press, 2017), is a sweeping land, crossed by drought and flood, coursed with wildflowers and white-throated sparrows, and never apologetic, always truthful, whether reflecting on the alpine monkeyflower, searching night skies for white and blue dwarfs, or bidding a glacial goodbye. This is a naturalist’s world, one in which scientist and poet meet; where ecological transformations are rendered and, by man’s hand, ruined; wherein 17th century naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian is called forth and cocoons open. In this wilderness, one experiences mountains and meltwater, conquest and confluence, metamorphosis and migration, extinction and memory. Terrain, time, weather, and ways of seeing the world from another angle—via microscopic lens, via telescope, via wide-eyed wonder—are explored here, allowing the occasion to ponder the rich, slippery relationship between man and nature.