Falling in love while losing a loved one and watching the war news on TV? Life is difficult, and the poems in this marvelous collection ask a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human? Each poem supplies part of the answer—to go looking, to make mistakes, to be confused, to be wounded, to keep moving toward a new life. “The expression of our faces when we almost get to where we are going”—that is the expression we have while reading this book, which has the pace of an intense, anticipated journey, one that acknowledges that language is a problem, that art, science, and history are problems, but nonetheless many disparate lives, both past and present, somehow meld into one small life lived, and when that life speaks—“mouth deliver us to the present”—we sit up and listen, for the experience of reading has handed us a strange joy.
Keegan Lester is one of the best young poets around. Tender and wild, this shouldn’t be beautiful/but it was/and it was all i had/so i drew it pops and bleeds with poems full of mothers and ghosts,time machines and asshole poets. This a book that knows it’s a hell of a lot better to write about Jenny Lewis or Abelard or a cousin who drops acid than something that doesn’t belong to you. It’s a book full of magic tricks and walking forward. Open it up and see. Don’t worry. It’s good to be free.
Possesses a haunted urgency that, as one careens through its poems like a semi navigating mountain roads, suspends one between what we cannot know about being human and what we cling to as gospel. Gospel’s an accurate word for Lester’s verse. He explores language, love, grief, and Lester’s adopted home state of West Virginia.
Heart-rooted in West Virginia but itinerant in its limbs, this shouldn’t be beautiful… is riddled with insight, full of America, made of dazzling cadences, and graced by a “perpetual openness” like that which Emerson ascribes to the Transcendentalist, along with a belief ‘in inspiration, and in ecstasy.’ Keegan Lester is just the kind of poet we need right now—and this is inspired, ecstatic poetry.
A precious artifact, something you handle with care because you know it’s one of a kind and that the slightest upset could ruin it – you become protective, you become excited, there are moments you need to catch your breath. In the last year or so language has become synonymous with hate, it’s poets like Keegan Lester that remind us of the love inherent in shaping language.
“‘Science alongside ghosts and god particles. Math-filled dreams. Reality and television. Imagination and activity. Pretending and playing. Love and war. This poetry is in service to a better world in that it teaches us how to connect beyond false binaries. At the core of Lester’s work is an understanding of global suffering. …’ ‘these poems are necessary; they unearth what’s real in our world, not just what is typical or expected. In these poems, constructs like past and present are collapsed, as are the lives of the living and the ghosting. One gets the sense that Lester is not just drawing this world for beauty’s sake, but out of necessity to transmute that beauty into language.’”
Lester’s poems read like sheet music so that you feel the notes as your eyes take them in. The language flows in almost pure rhythm. The reader doesn’t so much explore these poems as experience them. They dance, they sing, they trill. They rise and fall in tempo. It’s really quite a performance.