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An exploration of memory, mourning, and humanity’s precarious relationship to the Anthropocene, Christopher Kennedy’s The Strange God Who Makes Us documents our fragile relationship with time and the imperfect ways in which we document our lives. These prose poems written by one of the form’s masters, serve both as attempts to preserve and honor the past and as a call to action to ensure an inhabitable planet for future generations.
Excerpt from THE STRANGE GOD WHO MAKES US
The Strange God Who Makes Us
Something in the mother’s shrunken, sea-urchin face as she guided her husband’s
wheelchair along morning rush hour traffic said their lives were worth living, a
steadiness in the gaze, as if a distant sea roared from beyond the dull, uneven
pavement, an ocean where they could simply merge with whatever world could
maintain them better than this one with its seedy laundromats and discount
The satisfied look on the boy’s ash-colored face as he rode his father’s narrow
lap was as hopeful as the way he tipped his extended arms first right, then left,
in imitation of the plane that moved slowly across the impenetrable sky.
Sun gleamed off the diamond patterns of the silver footrests, and one stray
wheel, the left front, kept circling inward, pulling the chair toward the curb—
the clacking of the wheel like the snapping of small bones.
The stricken father had hands, limp as two dead gulls, that threatened to
catch in the rusty spokes but never did, his face honed down to a neo-classical
expression: angular, extreme, polished, and hardened like red marble, mythical,
as the Greeks might have looked when they imagined tragedy.
Praise for THE STRANGE GOD WHO MAKES US
“‘I was cold and felt the impermanence of being human,’ the narrator in one of Christopher Kennedy’s poems says while hiking an icy trail. Throughout The Strange God Who Makes Us, Kennedy invites the reader to feel this impermanence —which often manifests itself in a playful existential questioning. Rather than fearing this mutability, Kennedy begrudgingly accepts it. It’s just the way the world works, he seems to be saying. In the current prose-poem scene, where sameness reigns supreme, Kennedy offers a book full of intelligence, energy, and humor, all directed by an ‘I’ who is intensely wise and self-effacing at the same time. I haven’t read a book of prose poems in a long time that I would call a ‘classic,’ but The Strange God Who Makes Us certainly deserves that praise. It’s a book only a master of the genre could write.”
— Peter Johnson, author of While the Undertaker Sleeps: Collected and New Prose Poems
“In this deft and wildly sophisticated new collection, The Strange God Who Makes Us, the poet notes, of the dead commenting about the living, ‘they are touched by/the ghosts of every hand that ever held them’ —an observation, it seems, one might apply to the author himself, or rather his exquisitely attuned memory. Whether addressing Watkins Glen or Shang Qin, rocket ships or ‘the beautiful woman with the towering beehive,’ always there is the shivering presence of the future that ‘kept peeking around the corner to see if I was ready,’ offering grace and perspective. What more can one ask?”
— Daniel Lawless, Founding Editor, Plume