A poet recounts his arduous search for authenticity.
In a resonant, deeply moving memoir, award-winning poet Reece (b. 1963) reflects on love, spirituality, family, and his torments over his sexual identity. The author’s home life was troubled: His parents bickered, drank heavily, and insisted on keeping feelings private. At school, he recalls, “boys hissed at me like vipers,” and “girls hung in the shadows.” Filled with “rage, depression, shame, layers of repressed, inarticulate complex emotions,” Reece found solace in poetry, particularly works by Sylvia Plath, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Emily Dickinson, James Merrill, Mark Strand, George Herbert, and Elizabeth Bishop, each of whom spoke to his own anguish. “Closeted, alienated, and drinking,” he admits, “I found myself aligning” especially with Bishop, whose poetry “gave me something that I hadn’t found before. A space to breathe. A stance—the art moving through her, rather than being about her—that would give me space to live and figure my way into a sexual life where I could be proud.” Sometimes suicidal and an alcoholic for years, the author didn’t come out until he was 40. Poetry, he writes, “helped block out the fact there was so much wrong inside me.” After graduating from Harvard Divinity School, instead of pursuing theology, he worked at Brooks Brothers for 12 years. He committed himself to sobriety, attending AA meetings, where he found “a family, people related to each other through suffering and joy, and I was adopted.” Reece continued to write poetry, submitting work for years before he won the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize and, in 2004, got his first book published. Now an Episcopal priest, Reece recounts a hard-won journey to spiritual peace: “I didn’t come out. I came in. I came into focus. I came into myself after being long outside myself. I came into AA. I came into my body. I came into the Church.”
A beautifully written, engrossing narrative.
Pub Date: today
Page Count: 448
Publisher: Seven Stories
Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021