These moving and dramatic poems tackle the pain of the opioid addiction in West Virginia, how it affects family, addicts and the community. Brewer manages to infuse the poems with beauty and hope as well as speaking in the many voices of the epidemic.
Rooted in the physical and spiritual landscape of West Virginia, the poems focus on the small town of Oceana (nicknamed Oxyana for the record number of overdoses there), Oceana acts as a stand-in for West Virginia as a whole, which has the highest OD rate in the country. The poems are at once dreamlike and visceral, and the images in it draw on the beauty and pain of a West Virginia that is, in Brewer’s words “last on every list,” a state that people in the nation’s capital, only a few hours away, barely acknowledge and clearly don’t care much about.
William Brewer’s book, I Know Your Kind (Milkweed Editions, 2017) was the winner of the National Poetry Series. His work has appeared in Boston Review, The Iowa Review, Narrative (where it was awarded the 30 Below Prize), ZYZZYVA, New England Review, The New Yorker, and other journals. Currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, he was born and raised in West Virginia. For more about William Brewer, see the PBS segment or the ZYZZYVA interview.