|BROADSTONE BOOKS presents
Her father tells her one night—
I got news for you, kid.
You’re not getting off this planet alive.
any anxious body
might find solace.
It may seem counter-intuitive – even morbid – to take comfort in the inevitability
of our mortality; but that is merely one of many truths confronted with both
honesty and eloquence in this compelling first collection of poetry by Chrissy
Kolaya. Another is the dark underbelly of the American dream of upward mobility
– the disconnect that occurs across the generations as the gulf of education and
economic opportunity increasingly separates the experiences, values and interests
of the young from their forebears, making each of us a stranger in the strange land
of our families, “A World Familiar/Unfamiliar” (the title of one section).
A part of this separation comes about as a result of things unspoken, the truths that
parents choose not to share with their children until they are “ready” – if ever –
and that are often first revealed or suspected only in fragments. Appropriately
then, Kolaya begins with things “Overheard,” snatches of adult conversations
offering the first clues to these secrets. More of the past is revealed through the
chance documents which form the heart of the collection. One is a set of notes
left by her great-grandmother as she lay dying in a hospital, including the
“Reckoning” of her funeral expenses and the realization that
pay for this.
The other is a letter written by her grandmother to her children, the story of a life
she needed to tell even at the risk that
you might not even like me anymore.
Many of the truths contained in these documents, and in the poems that they
inspire, have to do with the lives of working-class women, then and now. This is
perhaps the greatest value of Kolaya’s work – how it serves as a documentary of,
and a testament to, the struggles of women to survive, to care for their families, and
to achieve some degree of dignity:
Didn’t he know
she just wanted to sit out on the porch
put her feet up
and light up a Viceroy
like a lady?
Kolaya appreciates that hers is “A Privileged Life,” and that she owes these women
who have come before her a debt of gratitude. This is a proudly feminist collection
– a term that Kolaya freely embraces, because she knows the work is never done,
the struggle never over.
But even more than that, it is a profoundly humane and optimistic collection, even
as it concludes with a meditation on death and the “Diagnoses” of our human
frailties. For in the end, it is not what separates us that matters, but what we all
that at one time
you lived among the natives
and in you
the whole world was joined together.
|Publication Date: March 14, 2014
Paperback, 96 pages
Chrissy Kolaya is a poet and
fiction writer, and in addition to
her Broadstone Books titles she
is the author of the novel
Her work has been included in
the anthologies New Sudden
Fiction (Norton), Fiction on a
Stick (Milkweed Editions), and
Stone, River, Sky: An Anthology
of Georgia Poems, as well as in a
number of literary journals.
As one of the co-founders of the
Prairie Gate Literary Festival, she
worked to develop the literary
Praise for Chrissy Kolaya & Any Anxious Body
In this fine first book of poems, Chrissy Kolaya reminds us that a life is larger than
its person, that it is made of many parts, some quite remote. Any Anxious Body
begins with the speaker’s earliest memories and ends at the grave of an unspecified
relative. Most remarkable about this journey is the spare handful of memories it
reaches back to for its beginnings, a great-grandmother’s fragmentary utterances
written in old age and saved by her daughter, used as a kind of lucky wisdom and
tact to guide the speaker into a full and generous consciousness. Life is made and
made possible by the words found to hold it down as it squirms to get away.
Chrissy Kolaya is to be congratulated for this exact and exacting art.
Roger Mitchell, author of Lemon Peeled the Moment
Before: New & Selected Poems 1967-2008
What we save, saves us. In these poems we learn the lesson of want versus need.
These poems strive across the distance between generations who lived poor and
those whose plenty is not enough. No small part of that continued wanting is to
hear and acknowledge the voices of those who survived deprivation and the
meagerness of women's lives in decades past. Kolaya's poetry is original, inventive,
direct and yet just a bit fragmented, just a little hard at times. Work is so much a
part of these poems, that making the reader work makes sense – makes
Heid E. Erdrich, author of Cell Traffic: New and
Part documentary poetics, part New York School improvisation, Any Anxious
Body reveals the ways in which the self is a poem, constructed as it is from a series
of improbable collisions that become inevitable in retrospect. This book will make
you cup your ear to the door of the past and listen more closely. It left me hearing
voices, most of all Kolaya’s own, one which I’m prepared to follow anywhere."
Dobby Gibson, author of It Becomes You
Any Anxious Body
|Publication Date: October 2019
Paperback, 80 pages
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arts community in rural western Minnesota. She has received a Norman Mailer
Writers Colony summer scholarship, an Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary
Studies fellowship, a Loft Mentor Series Award in Poetry, and grants from the
Minnesota State Arts Board, the Lake Region Arts Council, and the University of
Minnesota. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Florida. You
can learn more about her work at www.chrissykolaya.com.
Other Possible Lives
At one point in Chrissy Kolaya’s new poetry collection she recounts a Korean
student struggling to recall the English word “nightgown” and instead saying “dream
dresses.” How perfect a description for these poems, for in reading them we do slip
into dream dresses, garments that let us try on Other Possible Lives, like the couple
in the opening cycle “House Sitters” who imagine the life they might have lived in a
wealthy client’s home, “a dream life, borrowed.” Not that the lives imagined here
are necessarily dreamy, and a great many of these poems deal with the difficulties of
relationships, the recognition that “Sometimes the folks who aren’t speaking / are
the ones who know each other best,” or the realization at the end of an evening that
“tonight / you are not a lot to live on.” There is also a sparseness to the imagery at
times, appropriate for a poet of the upper prairie, and Minnesota winters make more
than one appearance, underscoring the emotional chill. (Now that Kolaya has moved
to Florida, it will be interesting to see how a warmer climate infuses her poetry!)
“Always, I am afraid // of missing something better,” says the speaker in one poem,
and this is the crux of the collection. We are still haunted by Frost’s two roads
diverging, the binary of one choice precluding another, and Kolaya’s statement of
this theme comes in the final lines of the closing poem, “The Right Track,” when the
speaker, following the end of another relationship laments,
It was about to happen.
was about to happen.
We are always just on the verge, and we create worlds through the choices we make
– but in poetry, at least, we have the chance to see where the other road might have
Praise for Chrissy Kolaya and Other Possible Lives
Grappling with the consequences of real and imagined choices, Chrissy Kolaya’s
Other Possible Lives gives us a world of shifting landscapes, of missing girls and
temporary homes. With devastating detail, the poems trace the tumultuous
geographies of everyday life and love in flux. These poems offer up glimpses of
alternate endings, of the freezing and thawing of love, leaving us to wander a world
full of possibilities, where “everything was about to happen.”
Vandana Khanna, author of The Goddess Monologues,
Afternoon Masala, & Train to Agra
What would you see if you could remove the fourth wall of every house, every
apartment, every building on the block and peer in unseen at the tangle of criss-
crossing human relationships as they unfold or unravel or disintegrate over time?
What if you could do the same thing with your own life, and apprehend the what ifs
and might’ve beens, the various lives that you could’ve lead—and still might—
instead? In Chrissy Kolaya’s psychologically sparkling and suspenseful Other
Possible Lives, the reality of the situation is never like TV, it’s unpredictable,
unproduced and wooly/nuanced—full of bliss, infidelity, faux pas, complication.
These often painterly (and very contemporary, American) poems present us with the
recognizable uncertainty of (the) character inside all of us. Here, the domestic and
the social, the public and the private, splinter into each other, to present a dynamic
vision of marriage, family, and ordinary life—teetering like a sound on the edge of
breakup, not quite distorted and not quite clean, but one we can see (and certainly
feel) when we look.”
Matt Hart, author of Everything Breaking/For Good &
In Chrissy Kolaya’s Other Possible Lives, people constellate, disperse, come back
together again, the space between them charged and dreamlike. All the possible lives
and all possible endings shapeshift on the page, and what binds both these lives and
this book is a tenderness almost too true to bear. This is gorgeous and glowing work.
Kerri Webster, author of The Trailhead, Grand & Arsenal, &
We Do Not Eat Our Hearts Alone
|Also from Broadstone Books by Chrissy Kolaya