Strange Children is an emotional reckoning of medical trauma, marriage, family, loss, and adoption. In simple, direct language, the poems here are honest, hard, and hopeful as they explore the “loss of what we never had / but dreamt of—not allowed to dream / of that life any longer.” These are poems you can feel.
In Brady’s debut collection, a narrative of medical trauma and its impact on a new family comes together through rigorous, spare poems. The opener, “Stroke Diary,” unfolds in clipped, precise movements, leaving much space for each new development to register: “I call the doctor./ Describe. Ask.// The doctor/ and my wife// speak in stereo: call 911.” By stripping poems down to the bare essentials, Brady enacts the eerie tunnel vision that can be brought on during a crisis. The diction is taut, even brittle at times, as the speaker and his recovering wife accommodate themselves to an unanticipated reality: “Our life together,/ like a great whale// breaching, or rather/ as fast as a fish// picks a single fly/ from the river water.” The second part of the book sees the family five years later, rebuilding and reckoning with “grief and gratefulness” as they move on with their lives. Here, brevity remains an essential quality of the poems but is deployed to different ends. Rather than imparting finality, the few words strive for a poetics of openness. As Brady writes, “The morning is a sea/ and the whole world/ sloshes about/ with possibility.” Full of heart, Brady’s succinct poems are effective and affecting. – Publishers Weekly
Brady’s debut opens with the dizzy, entrancing “Stroke Diary,” stanzas sifted across pages. The narrator’s wife, a few days after having their child, has a stroke. “Our life together, / like a great whale // breaching, or rather / as fast as a fish // picks a single fly / from the river water.” Shaken and wounded, the family emerges, but the stroke’s shadow holds. A trip to the cardiologist comes with a warning: “Given the risk of recurrence, / you shouldn’t get pregnant again.” Strange Children considers what happens when the certainty of our plans is replaced with a strangely comforting doubt. They wait for news about their adoption request, and the results are inspiring, among shaken lives: “I have lived a thousand lives / with these children and the grief / and joy of each one is a blessing to me.” – The Millions