Poetry is something that a lot of us probably want to like, but we just can’t quite get there. Poets either write too much about flowers, or the writing is so opaque and pretentious that it’s pointless to try and decipher. It’s like reading a technical manual on how to fix an industrial HVAC unit – it’s another language entirely. Poetry should be the best of our language. It should sing and kick. It should change the way we view the world around us, even if it’s just a little bit. In that way, it’s kind of like standup.
Sarah Kay’s No Matter the Wreckage is simultaneously accessible, beautiful, playful, and profound. It reminds me of a Mike Schur show (The Office, Parks & Rec, The Good Place) in that it’s smart, full of heart, bittersweet, and open to the world. Kay isn’t jaded or pretentious (even though she’s been a poetry celebrity since she was 14) – she waves her heart like a flag, rallying all of us to live more fully.
Kay is a storyteller – each poem is more or less a vignette about her life. Most of her stories are about her family (she’s refreshingly fond of her parents and brother) or lovers. It’s hard to pick a favorite or to select a few lines to summarize the book because so much of it is narrative in nature. My favorite is probably “B”, which Kay was famous for prior to the book. It’s a poem to her hypothetical daughter, but it’s really a manifesto on living openly and fully. It’s the kind of thing I’d put in my locker if I were still in school. Tied for first place is “Hands”, a poem I loved in particular because of its emphasis on the parent-child bond.
If you love poetry, buy this book. If you want to love poetry, buy this book. I’m a minimalist and I will buy this book, even though I’ve sold almost all of my books.