Angie Crea O’Neal’s The Way Things Fall explores our deepest human longings to find wholeness and completeness, our desire to set things right and to see “into the life of things,” as William Wordsworth wrote. This desire to reconcile only exists because things have gone wrong, sometimes in sudden terrible ways but mostly in gradual inevitable ways, the consequences of living—aging parents, broken hearts, even growing children. Inspired by Romantic poetry, astronomy, nature, and motherhood, the poems in this debut collection chronicle what it means to live and lose and what exists in the wake of our losses—it’s about waiting, surrendering, and rediscovering joy and awe in the midst of a fallen world.
Reading The Way Things Fall, it’s almost impossible not to think of Wordsworth’s famous claim in his Preface that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful emotion...recollected in tranquility.” O’Neal’s collection overtly reaches out to luminaries such as Wordsworth, Blake, and Shelley, but those famous words also ring true in the poems themselves. Here are poems that kindle the heart but also demonstrate tremendous skill on the page, poems that are both intellectual and earthy, “celestial bodies moving toward the lamp-lit/ kitchen like moths.” The collection balances on this fulcrum as it explores parenting, marriage, faith, even the beauty of childhood, incandescent but also scraped and wild. O’Neal invites the reader to “swing on the/ branches of unknowing,” while also acknowledging that “[s]ometimes the wrong thing gets broken.” The real power of this collection comes from the beauty in that brokenness. When O’Neal writes of “[o]ur/ good dishes forgotten in the bushes by/ the playhouse,” the reader hears Frost’s “Directive.” Where Frost offers a place to “drink and be whole again beyond confusion,” O’Neal offers a different comfort, that of “a living prayer—”. Reading The Way Things Fall, “[a] harvest/ moon unbuttons on the dark” and, thankfully, so do we.
—Maggie Blake Bailey, author of Bury the Lede
Meditative and visionary, Angie Crea O’Neal’s The Way Things Fall is a guidebook to places that awe us, suspend us, and won’t let us go—mountains and rivers, carnivals and “the streets of your first town.” O’Neal invites readers to ponder “a halo of lake fog” and "the gully beneath the root cellar,” to be raptured by the “ruinous beauty of it all, unstitching us at the seams.”
—William Woolfitt, author of Charles of the Desert
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