A HISTORY OF BONES is a collection of lyrical and narrative poems which examines the interconnectedness of humanity through recurrent physical images—bones, blood, hair, etc. These images reflect the commonalities of the human race at the most basic level by pointing to the unavoidable fate all living things share. The poems build on popular culture, politics, world history, and mythology to show the universality of human “baggage”. As the title poem says, “We carry all our histories with us where we go.” Over time, and all over the world, people exist as history collectors amassing experiences, both shared and unique, to which they must surrender and accept as parts of themselves.
The collection is divided into three sections, which move from “local history” to “national history” and, finally, to “global history.” Poems in the first section, “Five Acres,” focus on personal history, including the history of the American South. The section title poem, “Five Acres of Pine Trees,” uses the scenery of the heavily-wooded land of rural Alabama as a means to discuss both the absurdity of invisible boundary lines and the wars which arise in relation to them. Poems in the second section, “Domestic Dream,” examine various ideas associated with the United States, such as modern politics, the country’s history of wars, post-post feminism, domesticity, and identity. The section’s title poem is a persona poem which follows the speaker from a kitchen to a fantasy world of fishing on a remote Greek island and back to real life. The collection’s final section, “Ode to the Globe” simultaneously pans out to encompass various cultures, languages, world regions, and points in history while pinpointing the emotional strain of carrying one’s histories. This section’s title poem imagines a character in love with the idea of world cultures, languages and historic places, who obsesses over these things, but views them through books, rather than personally encountering them. All three sections are braided together by the shared emotions of all peoples: nostalgia, regret, anxiety, hatred, passion, and longing.
Thematically A HISTORY OF BONES shares elements with the work of Janet McAdams who often examines a single forgotten moment in history told from the perspective of a semi-removed speaker. The poems within the collection often depend on vivid, carefully attended details reminiscent of Elizabeth Bishop and Adrienne Rich. The poems also are influenced by e.e. cumming’s frequent word creation. The poems in the collection, however, are most influenced by the work of John Rybicki, specifically his third collection, We Bed Down into Water and the oddly juxtaposed images found in his work.