a child walks in the dark by Darren C. Demaree

Candle-Ends: Reviews
Salvatore Marici


a child walks in the dark by Darren C. Demaree

The poetry book a child walks in the dark by Darren C. Demaree (Small Harbor Publishing, 2021) is a collection of advice he gave to his children. Advice that encourages them to discover the world while they learn to become themselves and to let them know that they will have struggles.

In the poem [A MASK OR TWO] a father tells his children “i love all of the people you will try and fail to be and i love all of the lies you will tell yourself…” (25)

In the poem [YOU ARE THE STORM], Demaree lets his daughter become angry. Her father’s beliefs inspire her anger. Yet he knows or hopes as she grows older with devotions he will have to stay out of her way:

…you are the storm clapping i can smell your electricity coming to life … i told you our president was trying to hurt the planet you broke a lamp you’re seven … there will be no punishment you are the punishment for everyone that gets in the way of a thriving earth and it’s my job to stay out of your way. (38)

Even though each poem starts out “i told my daughter,” or “i told my son,” or “i told my children,” these poems are not for his children, at least for the present. They are too young to read the book and to grasp the advice. In the last poem of the book [YOU MIGHT CHOOSE TO READ THESE POEMS], he writes: “i told my children you might choose to read these poems in the bareness and anxiety of your young adulthood…” (73)

Demaree wrote these poems to discover, as he writes in the poem [YOU MIGHT CHOOSE TO READ THESE POEMS]: “i have written so that i could explore so that i could explain so i could hide and lie…” (73) The results of putting these poems in a collection is a handbook of raising children. In the upcoming years, I speculate he will refer to this book, to remind him what advice and promises he gave to his children. He also wrote these poems for parents to help their children navigate into adulthood without a leash. Demaree expanded to include other parents in podcasts, one discussion for each poem in the book.

The syntax in this poetry collection is the first thing I noticed when I looked at a page. It made me feel uncomfortable when I read these poems. There is a visual urgency: titles are all in caps inside parentheses, the knowing each poem begins “i told my child” followed by the poem’s title, lines that go to the end of the margin, run-on sentences, no periods, no commas, no punctuation. nada enforced with splattered repetition. I mentally put in line breaks, punctuation. The meanings were there but with breaths. I was able to catch, absorb. I don’t think Demaree wanted the reader to breathe. The only whitespace in these poems is when a poem ends. This book streams fifty-nine poems, like episodes on Netflix with no interruptions. His thoughts of parenting and the process of childhood turning into adulthood are shown in thirteen lines or less.

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Darren C. Demaree is the author of sixteen full-length collections of poetry, He is recipient of a 2018 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal. He is the Editor-in-chief of the Best of the Net Anthology and Managing Editor of Ovenbird Poetry. He lives in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. Twitter: @d_c_demaree

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Salvatore Marici has four poetry collections. He was the 2010 Midwest Writing Center Poet-in-Resident, has judged poetry contests, placed in poetry contests, teaches workshops and attends poetry workshops. His poetry has appeared in Toasted Cheese; Spillway; Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland; Of Burgers & Barrooms, a Main Street Rag anthology; Poetry Quarterly and many more. Marici served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala as a natural resources specialist and he is a civil servant retiree/agronomist. In Southwest Florida he is learning to maneuver a 17-foot kayak. During the summer he grows garlic in Western Illinois. Email: redwineandgarlic[at]yahoo.com

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