I KNOW YOUR KIND, BY WILLIAM BREWER
Set in Oxyana—a nickname given to the author’s hometown of Oceana, West Virginia—William Brewer’s first full-length collection opens with a quote from Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian: “‘I know your kind,’ he said. ‘What’s wrong with you is wrong all the way through you.’”
Indeed, Brewer begins in I Know Your Kind the work of unraveling assumptions about addiction and about the people of Oceana. The book, which was chosen by Ada Limón for the National Poetry Series, moves through cycles of detox, overdose, resolution, withdrawal, relapse, death, and grief, taking readers through the steps as it shines a light on addiction from a wide range of perspectives. In the opening poem, Brewer paints a typical day in this town: “Not Hog Hill where Massey Energy / dumped cinder, the gray waste / between breaths, poisoned trees / black like charred bones / where we burned cars while girls / wrote our death dates on our palms / with their tongues . . .” In voices that are manic and breathless, lucid and gut-wrenching, Brewer reminds us that change can be possible, but might be very hard to come by in a place like this.