I Know Your Kind

William Brewer. Milkweed, $16 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-57131-495-6
Brewer descends the rabbit hole of opioid addiction and its cycles of despair in his penetrating debut. He covers the gamut of experiences from withdrawal to rehab to relapse, and the idle helplessness of watching friends and family succumb to the disease. Brewer’s expert descriptions of his hometown of Oceana, W.Va., (nicknamed “Oxyana” for the drug whose use has spread there) evoke a sinister, deathly presence, with “fog-strangled mornings” and “rain choking the throats of smokestacks,” a landscape Brewer penetratingly connects to the addict’s brain. “Smog from the steam engine/ of dementia tints your hair,” Brewer writes, “your synapses scatter// in the late December forest of your mind.” The stunning and spare “Resolution” captures the decisive moment of choosing sobriety, its pathos and clarity so strong it is compared to the invention of the window, “All that light bursting in.” Brewer’s creative syntax and line breaks bolster his dark and vivid imagery, especially in a few downright unforgettable instances. “Oxyana” is both a real place and a fantastical mental prison, a symbol for addiction with religious and mythological references scattered throughout. Anyone familiar with addiction will recognize Oxyana’s metaphorical scenery in all its absurd and devastating iterations. Despair-inducingly relevant as opioid deaths soar across America, Brewer’s depiction of his triumph over his “shrieking private want” is a revelation. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/26/2017
Release date: 09/05/2017
Open Ebook - 96 pages - 978-1-57131-968-5
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