Kate Buckley’s Wild Heart

A Wild Region by Kate BuckleyIn Kate Buckley’s “Laurel County,” the speaker addresses an older, maternal figure:

You made a kite for me once, weaving far into the night
a red tailed hawk with scarlet ribbons streaming like entrails
against the gray Kentucky sky.

Here tenderness and violence converge, as they do time and again throughout her debut collection of poems, A Wild Region. These inner portraits of rural people juxtapose the beautiful and terrible in a deceptively straightforward style.

Certainly simple people living close to the land are vulnerable to hardships–black lung, train accidents, difficult pregnancies, and famine. But amidst familial affection, ties of religion, and farmland, there are darker suggestions, of “the things whiskey’ll do to a man,” the story of a husband poisoning his wife, and heartbreak–“the secret of betrayal simply this: / she was there one day, / and then she was not.”

There is a sense of fascination in these poems, of seeking a past that may never be found. In “My Mother’s Closet,” the speaker searches through everything:

I even smelled your stockings, sniffing at the crotches
like a dog, frantic for any trace of you, my eyes raking
their length, wondering at ladders, searching for clues.

This is a book of poems full of clues–clues more satisfying even than answers, since they point us toward the wilder regions of the complex human heart. Like a heady night in the rural South, these poems are sonorous, delicious, and dark–at once comforting and mysterious, wicked and sweet.