In Freesia McKee’s How Distant the City, a woman walks downtown in the cities of power and apathy. Alley raccoons, feral cats, and tenacious foxes watch the poet split and stack a careful catalogue of witness. McKee maps our location against the influences of aggression, violence, and microaggression, journeying through Milwaukee, Aleppo, the Cumberland Gap, Chicago, Isla Vista, Orlando, and beyond. This Charlotte Mew Prize finalist asks readers to interrogate the distances we maintain between our bodies and the body politic. These poems “speak with each other/ about who’s in power.”
What are people saying about How Distant the City?
The poems themselves are archives, of the body, of place, of the body’s gestures and movings through the city of these poems. The images are electric with worry and wonder, memory and possibility, and through it all, love.
—Natalie Diaz, judge of the Charlotte Mew Prize
“What does courage mean anymore?” asks the speaker in Freesia McKee’s How Distant the City, a question that pulses through the nuanced body of this book to its profound extremities. “She would fly home more, but TSA never knows who to get to do the pat-down,” comes one moment of revelation. “You realized your pain isn’t the only pain/ worth knowing,” comes another. How Distant the City is a courageous and arresting debut.
—Julie Marie Wade, author of When I Was Straight and SIX: Poems
Freesia McKee’s How Distant the City is a city of questions, asking us to account for how we pay attention to our small wild moments in a time made strange by war. This poet pushes us to keep circling around what most would pass by to mark our stains on each page, to turn our ears to notice who has gone by and who has gone missing.
– Ching-In Chen, author of The Heart’s Traffic and recombinant
Freesia McKee’s debut chapbook, How Distant the City, illuminates geographical, emotional and psychic spaces to expose the alienation and displacement we create when we substitute apathy and avoidance for empathy and connection. This collection shines most brilliantly in poems that connect the quotidian to the remarkable, traversing with linguistic adroitness through representations of loss, rape, racial injustice, murder and commonplace acts such as getting a haircut or setting a Thanksgiving table. In the juxtaposition of everyday acts to acts of terror, McKee draws attention to the dialectics of the self’s most private desires, struggles and traumas with those of the displaced and terrorized “others” in our villages, in our hearts, in our local and national news, and in our global community. McKee boldly makes connections across differences with a poetic fluency that is vibrant, honest, inspiring and chock-full of integrity.
—Donna Aza Weir-Soley author of First Rain, Eroticism, Spirituality and Resistance in Black Women’s Writings, The Woman Who Knew and co-editor of Caribbean Erotic
Her collection braids home, neighborhood, and the world together in one strong rope to hang on to…I found myself wanting more poems to read.
—Jessica S. Frank, reviewer, Portage Magazine
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