Jeffrey McDaniel is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Chapel of Inadvertent Joy. Other books include The Endarkenment, The Splinter Factory, The Forgiveness Parade, and Alibi School. His poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, he teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in the Hudson Valley.
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.
“Reading Jeffrey McDaniel’s gorgeously dark and utterly compelling Chapel of Inadvertent Joy reminds me that he is probably the most important poet in America. The book in your hands was written by a master of metaphor and a poet of huge imagination and fierce ingenuity, a fine antidote to realism. Get this voice in your head.”—Major Jackson
The poet employs colloquial diction, references pop and classical culture, and travels at 1000 miles per hour in his fourth collection. For those who think contemporary poetry is about abject confessions, vacation in Provence and opaque ‘academicisms,’ McDaniel is an intro to a new world.