Cammy Thomas

Winner of the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2006

from Cathedral of Wish


his black days he fed us pheasant
shot in fields behind the house
mudroom shotgun oiled black
slick bolt pulled back
hung the birds
in the garage to season
trembled as he plucked
their blue-green plumes
oh it tasted tender
that darkest meat
squawk and talon
sometimes we spat a pellet or two

Medbh McGuckian on Cammy Thomas

Cathedral of Wish by Cammy Thomas is a difficult, possibly belated, certainly hard- earned, collection. A first book is nearly always autobiographical and personal, and this one is so burningly. These "gasps," for such they are, at the extremes of family brutality and shame, where only the italicized parental speeches are punctuated, reveal a painful story that is all too familiar, without self-pity, charting a male power and abuse so starkly as to be almost a political diagnosis. Infidelity is the crux of Shakespeare's sonnets and the central experience sublimated by Yeats: here the ambivalence is "anguish dimmed but with it, rapture." Other fine and noteworthy near-winners had more verbal ingenuity, more varied thematic density, yet none had quite this sustained and tragic unrelievedness, where what is not said is even more haunting than what is. If poetry has more to do with emotion than intellectuality, then this volume serves in that category.

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