Home By Now cover

paper • 80 pages • 15.95
ISBN-13: 978-1-884800-94-8

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Home By Now

Meg Kearney

A Malcolm McDonald Series Selection

Winner of the 2010 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award in Poetry


The Speakers of Home By Now, Meg Kearney’s gritty second collection of poems, travel the shadows and edges of modern life, “seducing” would-be parents at the orphanage, waiting for news from surgeons performing a heart bypass, tending bar and their own alcoholism in the tinged days of Code Orange. “Who needs TV drama? This / is life in the volcano. This is as cold as it gets,” asks one speaker, remembering first blow-jobs and two-day benders in high school. With one foot in the rural and another in the urban, this collection settles in neither: “I don’t romanticize / country life, am no longer the kind /of poet to put words in the beaks / of birds,” Kearney writes, describing a hawk flown against a window in terms that “don’t // speak of suicide flights / into buildings.” Her sudden linebreaks generate suspense and impetus, carving gripping poems you can’t look away from for an instant, no matter how distressing or inevitable their ending offers to be.

The characters we hear from and watch are searching for homes—in bars and cities, in the country, elsewhere; the tough wisdom they learn through abandonments is that home, once found, can dissolve without warning. In the “The Prodigal Father” the speaker “can’t go back, can’t gas up the old Ford / Fairlane”; another character, reflecting on his Scottish roots, ponders how “love, like hunger, // is a covetous ache for a feast just / out of reach.” None of these speakers emerge unscathed from abandonment, the way their world has collapsed about them: the amputee looking outside on September 12, 2001, “insists / her legs are still / down there // She feels them / burning.” Self-destruction jostles with the loss of loved ones and the unraveling of dreams: “She knew herself well enough to say / no to a place that shared a parking lot / with a bar. She knew, scribbling the deposit / check.” These unflinching poems remind us we are telling stories about our past, present, and future, and that we often end up living those fictions.

About the Author

  • “Fluent and easy to like, serious in its take on the American life course, this second collection of poems for adults from Kearney (she's also the author of young adult verse) looks hard at the troubles and changes of Kearney's own experience, as an adopted child, as the daughter of an ailing father, as a sometime New Yorker who relocated after 9/11 to northern New England. The first—and perhaps the most verbally brilliant—poems depict the ups and downs of her teens: 'When I got my head stuck between the porch rails/ I didn't know enough yet to hate my body, but I knew/ a thing or two about smoking my father's cigars.' Later she portrays herself as a grownup adrift ('Rum & Coke & a New Apartment'). In the city, 'The bike-shop bag goes scrish-scrish/ against your leg as you head home,' even as, in Wyoming, 'your father's hand trembles, reaching/ for the water glass'; in New Hampshire, 'we're street-smart and wary/ enough not to let our Lab run the woods/ at night alone.' Defiance mixed with caution drives her conversational lines. Kearney (An Unkindness of Ravens) neither finds, nor seeks, great innovations; instead, she presents her life as representative, an occasion for tangents, for sadness, and for joie de vivre.” —Publisher's Weekly (Nov.)
  • “Meg Kearney’s Home By Now is a brilliant, hard-won second book that will remind you why we go to poetry in the first place; not to be soothed, but to learn. These are smart, tough, sure lyrics. I love the sound of this book, the music she so slyly installed in these poems. I read and marvel.” —Cornelius Eady
  • “Toughness and vulnerability rub against each other in these poems, and sparks fly. Meg Kearney’s Home By Now is a strong and moving book.” —Linda Pastan