Diana Hamilton’s collection, God Was Right, delivers a series of essayistic poems proffering meditations, arguments, and direct addresses like never-ending conversations inside her speaker’s varied mind. Curious and compelling associations are found here between Flaubert and baby goats; lists of the ways a woman might like to be kissed, and arguments circulate on the point(lessness) of poetry, etc. As one poem puts it, “the speaker’s saying ‘fuck you’ to her // academic readers in their own tongue.” Hamilton also offers us many other critiques—by way of her speaker’s thorough observation—of graduate study, the handsy steering and grooming for a single school of thought, the male gatekeepers of academia and publishing alike, one’s own able-bodied privilege and how all of this—even the speaker’s voracious analysis—is reductive, chases its own tail, unable to set down the monocle of study.

Even so, the poems in God Was Right are jammed with humor, seeming to anticipate would-be criticisms and who can be upset about the roasting when Hamilton also roasts herself? One lyric spouting announces, mid-monologue, “I think a lot of poetries have conspired against the monologue” and it’s this cheekiness that sustains our attention. Her honesty is addictive too, in poems like “Autobiography of Fatness” when her speaker sees her desire to write about her own could-be fat body as a way to side-step power and privilege. By admitting this, her speaker can do neither, is held in account. There is so much accounted for in this collection, appraised on one page, only be reappraised and found to the contrary on the next, and that’s what life is like—at least a life spent in and out of books. A series of readings and re-readings that pain and nourish us. As Hamilton’s final poem tells us: “Why does God tempt us to think about it too much if he doesn’t want / us to? // Because he wants us to suffer” but suffering is never the end, and of course, Hamilton tell us it is right for us to make our coffee and to continue.

Ugly Duckling Presse.

— Review by Madeline Vardell