This year I’ve been fortunate to have Atmosphere Press take on my debut poetry collection, It’s Not About You.
I was fortunate to have some exceptional poets read the manuscript and offer blurbs for the back cover and interior.
It’s Not About You by Daniel Casey punches hard and heavy and pierces sharp and shrill an inconvenient but imperative truth some of us are gleefully unaware of, others choose to ignore, while the rest only see themselves as right and righteous. Casey confronts grueling realities in our society such as the effects of colonization, systemic oppression, privilege, entitlement, fears without facts, with grit and candor while also being demanded and demanding more of himself “than being among / a colorless, one-dimensional people.” This thought-provoking poetry collection is an urgent calling to challenge ourselves to “Be better, do better.” And hope our collective history will persevere and triumph as “white light suddenly wiping the slate clean” in time.
Daniel Casey’s It’s Not About You takes aim at the evils of our days – from Brock Turner to Donald Trump to the mealy-mouthed term “millennial” deployed to tone-police and silence. He employs “fucking” liberally for emphasis, uses tarot as a form, calls out Southern dogs, Kansas sunflowers, and white people. Moments of lyric beauty – “Let your throat warble / sounding some exquisite bliss / to the exclusion of all else” – are juxtaposed with fantastically honed anger: “The legacy / of the Baby Boom will be / a kind of aggressive myopia / like the not all men/all lives / matter.” The title is a lie – these poems are about us.
In a 2007 essay, Robert Pinsky called for “difficult” poetry: poetry that pushes us to confront truths we don’t want to face. The poems in Daniel Casey’s It’s Not About You answer this call. In the spirit of Philip Larkin, Casey’s poems push us to examine the uncomfortable realities of human nature – apathy, rage, disdain – and what it means to live in a nation fueled by prejudice and greed, focused on the myriad ways we find “to destroy what you love.” And yet there is hope here that if we “know full well” our darker nature, we can resist it, and through this challenging work, we can “be better, do better.”
It is a collection of poems written primarily in 2016. They definitely have a flavor of that time. At the time, I was living in far western Kentucky having come from Lawrence, Kansas. There are several poems in the collection tied to a location–Kansas, the region of southern Illinois called Little Egypt, and the Purchase region of Kentucky. Also, many of these poems are almost occasional poetry as they are tied to some event in popular culture. The centerpiece is a long poem originally published in Moonchild Magazine. It’s a poem with certain constraints–a poem a week covering Donald Trump’s first 100 days as President based on a three card tarot pull.
These poems are harsh and unpretty. However, I think they’re rather strong and in a voice I think is cynical but queerly idealistic. If that makes sense?