August 2nd, 2017: Charlotte Innes

Descanso DriveUrgent, muscular, rapt, distilled—at times like a melding of Plath and Boland—and as unnervingly prescient as it is attentive to and haunted by both the historical and personal past—Charlotte Innes’s Descanso Drive is a nourishing tonic, arriving just in time for us, “as hate begins its work . . .” Deep-diving, endlessly curious, ever alert, acutely and equally tuned to craft and memory, the poems that forge this place of hard-won “rest,” this “smallest belvedere / of home,” even richly observed, remind us that home is both structure and process—for it is not just hands that create shelter, but this surprising, finely wrought work of healing the human heart.

—Sarah Maclay, author of Music for the Black Room

Perhaps the commonest way of setting out to make a poem is to isolate its subject, so that it can be concentrated and clarified. Charlotte Innes’s poems almost never do this; they insist on contexts, seemingly irrelevant contexts, contradictory contexts, contexts that throw the writer (and reader) from grief to relief and back again, and they build their substance, which is almost always strong, telling, and memorable, out of inconsistency and paradox, so that each of her poems is, as one of them says, (an) “accidental harmony / of mismatched elements.” Often the disparities lie between a past laden with horror or grief, and a present reaching for happiness, for “the rare / moments of radiance that come after years / of dark tunneling, then go, then come again.” There are beautiful love poems here, and fearsome evocations of the past’s horrors, but for me the most poignant of her poems are about young girls and the way they hover at the edge of the multiplicity, pain, and pleasure of life; a poem like “Reading the Field,” a meditation on a photograph of such a child, is as lovely, mysterious, and suggestive as a portrait by Gwen John.

—Dick Davis, author of Love in Another Language: Collected Poems and Selected Translations.

In Descanso Drive, Charlotte Innes brings a Romantic’s regard for nature to bear on finely-crafted poems, beautifully voiced, that carry us from her native England to her new home in California. This collection is a spiritual travelogue studded with roadside memorials; a quest for a place in this world and a journey toward the kind of resolution and rest that may only be found at the fragile line “between / what’s seen and hidden.”

—Rick Mullin, author of Sonnets from The Voyage of the Beagle