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Holiday in the Islands of Grief

Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)

Jeffrey McDaniel


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In his new collection, Jeffrey McDaniel confronts the insular and expansive qualities of loss. With electric language and surrealistic imagery, McDaniel’s poems deliver the quotidian elements of middle-age life while weaving us in & out of childhood and adulthood alongside body and mind. The tragic and life affirming share the same page and the same world, reminding us how close corruption can be to innocence; domesticity to fantasy; aging to youth. 
We are underwater off the coast of Belize.
The water is lit up even though its dark
as if there are illuminated seashells
scattered on the ocean floor.
We’re not wearing oxygen tanks,
yet staying underwater for long stretches.
We are looking for the body of the boy
we lost. Each year he grows a little older.
Last December I opened his knapsack
and stuck in a plastic box of carrots.
Even though we’re underwater, we hear
a song playing over a policeman’s radio.
He comes to the shoreline to park
and eat midnight sandwiches, his headlights
fanning out across the harbor.
And I hold you close, apple of my closed eye,
red dance of my opened fist. 

Praise For Holiday in the Islands of Grief: Poems (Pitt Poetry Series)

Past Praise for Chapel of Inadvertent Joy
“McDaniel shocks with lines that are at once painful and visually convincing, that balance grief with imagination.”—Green Mountains Review

Past Praise for Chapel of Inadvertent Joy
“I just loved this book so much! Heartbreak and humor find their balance in this worldly take on love and cheating. McDaniel is so smooth and lovable in his voice and adept in his lines. He makes it all seem so easy. Buy this for five smart people who like poetry; they will all send you notes of pleasure.”—​D.A. Powell

“McDaniel writes with such good humor and pathos and in lines that are just so breath-taking in their originality and vividness that, despite the grim realities they contemplate, the poems nevertheless affirm the proposition that life is good.” The Lake Poetry

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822966104, 65pp.

Publication Date: February 25, 2020

About the Author

Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy. Other books include The EndarkenmentThe Splinter FactoryThe Forgiveness Parade, and Alibi School. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. A recipient of an NEA Fellowship, he teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in the Hudson Valley.