Lightsey Darst’s newest book, thousands is an unabashed and compelling collection of poetry. Poignant and at times humorous, the poems bring together a collage of Darst’s lyricism, quotes, lecture notes and coffeeshop conversations into a cohesive meditation on romance, divorce, loss and pregnancy. The poems are unafraid to remark upon the world as it is, to touch on areas of womanhood that are often overlooked, including sex and yearning and the interior of a marriage falling apart. Darst’s subjects are familiar yet the material is new and surprising. thousands is a work in motion, oscillating between lyrical introspection —“A wife agrees to conceal. She conceals a story / But the story swells inside her”— and frank observations— “Keeping a journal on the weather didn’t do a thing about / my not loving my husband” and the juxtaposition draws the reader into and through the collection. There are few titled poems, but instead poems shift between topics and themes, always coming back to illuminate each subject further as the book progresses.
The poems in thousands comment directly on the grittiness of life. Some interrogate the wider world and our connection to it, with lines such as, “How do you deal with the casual atrocity of the world? Can I / drop into a poem Mankato’s mass execution: sitting at the / strip mall coffee shop.” Other poems focus on the shift of identity between youth and adulthood, “No one in their twenties / thought they would have kids or die, but then they did” and others make keen observations on the struggle to have a child, “I contain no one; my insides touch each other, all self/ all the way through.” Darst’s poems masterfully braid these themes throughout the collection, never fully abandoning any one topic, and never dwelling too long in any one place. The poems are honest and insightful, drawing the reader into the world of the speaker and the collection feels immediate and necessary—Anna Derey-Wilson