In Brand New Spacesuit, John Gallaher writes with honesty, humor, and tenderness about what fades and what remains. These poems offer snapshots of the poet’s memories of his adoption and childhood, his father’s heart attacks, his mother’s progressing Alzheimer’s disease and stroke, raising his own children, and his reflections on the complex mysteries of the universe within everyday moments. With exquisite attention to detail, Gallaher captures the losses, anxieties, and possibilities that come with caring for one another.
And then there are those days (Look! The sun still rises!)
where you have this feeling you want to love something,
or you want to say or do something positive, but you can’t think
of anything, so that the moment is lost in this search
for the what. The spirit is willing but the subject has failed
to show up. There’s this “go fish” quality to wandering,
but only if one is in the open mood, where whatever one
happens upon next is OK. There are many ways to make sense.
This morning, I’m remembering fondly the days browsing
card catalogues, as I imagine the landfills they now inhabit,
because browsing’s a kind of happiness, finding out new things,
purposeful stumbling. How many books are there with “Elvis”
in the title? 740,934 in our database. The solidity
of the card catalogue, oh happy furniture, proof of our need
for proof. To cultivate happiness, one must remember six things
while browsing, I’ve read. And I’m sure it’s going to be
the sort of thing you can print off or clip out, maybe crochet
into inspirational framed art for the refrigerator and send
to the randomness of the abyss. “The abyss” is too large
a concept for what I’m thinking, but Eliot’s into making
graphic novels these days, and he’s using words like “abyss”
and “dire,” and it’s charming, which is Step One
on the Sustainable Happiness Highway: Cultivate Appreciation,
as there comes a time in every Elvis impersonator’s life
when they do their last plausible Elvis impersonation.
The door is walked through. The sleeper dreams into
further sleeping. And it all seemed so large once. So awake.
“Read these poems in succession and at the pace they create and you’ll have proof that art lets us, wants us, to read another’s mind. John Gallaher’s poetry is relentlessly alive. Moving with candor, humor, speed, and with more gravity than youth can afford, Gallaher has voiced a found and juxtaposed domain, layered and moving along the flotsam of common culture and the axis of family ‘as if everything here is here,’ where the remembered world waits inside of things, or behind, or above, or below them. This is a grown man’s book of relations. It is extraordinary.”
—Kathleen Peirce, author of Vault
“One swell thing about living on this planet is how it turns so fast everybody is connected to it and each other and not drifting alone through space except possibly in our own minds. The poems in Brand New Spacesuit are similarly centripetally swell. They turn and they turn and it’s a wild ride that leaves me (and I suspect will also leave you) feeling more connected to the minutiaes and struggles and pleasures and loves of this life on earth. Reading this book feels like some cosmic bang is conjuring up gravity inside your own brain, but whoa it was actually just John Gallaher who did that and he only used his words.”
—Kathryn Nuernberger, author of Rue