Emily Alta Hockaday’s latest publication comes in the form of a delightful chapbook titled What We Love And Will Not Give Up. This collection of poems beautifully demonstrates the namesake of the text as Hockaday explores human relationships, in addition to trivial matters of life that we also happen to fall in love with.
Hockaday offers wide range of poems, all with a unique perspective on the overarching theme of human interaction. For instance, take the first poem of the chapbook, “how to survive.” The first couple of lines do a fantastic job of immediately setting the tone for the rest of the text:
“we’re on a budget 3.50
a piece for dinner “puttanesca”
chicken and anything in
the cupboard throw in those
bills that keep coming the
same every month the loose nails
under the computer st. john’s wort
that onion my reflux sauté
it first we are thinking
lime peel marinade last night
we squeezed the pulp and
can’t let it be wasted”
The exclusion of punctuation and capitalization adds a sense of urgency to the text, instantly grabbing the reader’s attention. Hockaday progresses the poem by shining light on the essence of materiality and how it relates to human interaction, as she creates parallels between the values of household items and conscious streams of thought. The last lines close the poem in a frivolous, yet romantic manner:
“if we could share
since we’re budgeting however
I won’t let us eat this paper
we will need these records how
hard we stayed in love”
The final lines of “how to survive” do a fantastic job of heavily emphasizing romance and providing a slight sense of humor into the subject. This fine balance of romance and humor is one of the most prominent aspects What We Love And Will Not Give Up, as Hockaday enables readers to become enthralled by her depictions of relationships, all while keeping a slight grin on their faces.
Another way Hockaday enables the reader to smile is how she decides to include contemporary references. A perfect example of this is “Kenny on YouTube,” which focuses on a viral video of a white tiger diagnosed with down syndrome.
“We laugh for hours about Kenny–all the pieces too in place. I laugh so hard I make that walrus noise, focus on the cream and mint pattern on the Ottoman to keep from hiccupping.
A product of zoologist inbreeding, Kenny is a Siberian White Tiger. In this shot, he is eating thistle and milkweed pod but can’t close his mouth around it. His teeth poke out in different directions.”
Written in a fashion that almost reads like a short story, “Kenny on YouTube” recounts an experience in which several people are laughing at Kenny’s misfortunes, in addition to how ridiculous the video on YouTube is of him. However, the poem also describes an experience at a bar, demonstrating the irony of the entire situation:
“Last night at Whiskey Bar, all the couples looked like mirrors with their vests and drinks and Buddy Holly glasses. We fight over the best bourbon, the best scotch I say Lagavulin some others say Johnny Blue. But Johnny needs ice. It needs a little watering-down.”
The brilliance of Hockaday’s writing is evident within this piece, as she simply uses honesty to demonstrate the silly and trivial nature of human beings. Her careful attention to form is again worthy of note, as she enables the reader to experience the foolish debate over alcohol. And of course, she provides reference to Buddy Holly, which is rather humorous in a poem centered around the “more” contemporary YouTube.
The most notable of her contemporary references is in the last piece of the chapbook titled “Our Funniest Home Videos.” This piece contains a collection of small poems, each with its own individual video title. For example, one piece is titled “Funny piñata accidents/the world’s greatest groin hit” and reads:
you pinch a list of all
the lies you told me
into my skin an apology
for letting me be happy
all this time
These poems continue this pattern, as this sequence of intimate, yet humorous pieces illustrate how versatile Hockaday is as a writer.
Hockaday redefines one’s perspective on human interaction through her brilliant writing. What We Love And Will Not Give Up certainly deserves a spot in your poetry collection.