Erin M.Kelly first utilized her creativity as a way to learn to live with and understand her diagnosis of cerebral palsy. That being said, to assume Erin is defined by her disability, or that she somehow has some inherent “pass” would be a HUGE mistake.
Erin, as an Asian Woman with cerebral palsy has achieved all she has thus far through hard work, tenacious spirt, a fierce advocacy for struggling intersectional communities and personal challenges she overcomes on a daily basis.
Erin may have cp but it doesn’t have her.
Erin has been published in Wordgathering Poerty Journal, The Huffington Post, Xo Jane, The Mighty, Oberon Poerty Magazine and The Good Men Project, where I first made her acquaintance and became a fan of her authentic voice. In the interest of full disclosure, I consider Erin a friend. But I feel in this instance, it only informs my view of her latest collection of poetry in a way that gives me insights other reviewers may lack.
How To Wait gives voice to hard truths of someone who historically has struggled at the fringes to occupy the center, the poems in How To Wait have a sardonic, clever tinge, it isn’t one bit morose or self pitying. Her poetry is at times a clever observer commentary on the vagaries of humanity and random chance.
Other times you get the sense of the vulnerability of the observed trying to make meaning of pitfalls all young people share, through Erin’s unique lens. The frustrations of unanticipated outcomes, the simple joys of unexpected discoveries. Her joys and sorrows are on the table.
The universal pleasures surrounding the first cup of coffee upon waking on the weekend juxtaposed and through her perspective, her body at times, a temperamental instrument she coaxes a song from, as she relays in the poignant “Saturday Moments”
Saturday Moments by Erin M. Kelly
I am a song,
rising in a robe…
…or sometimes in boxer shorts.
That first mouthfull of coffee
trickles down my bones.
Sometimes I hear
the bare bones
of notes I missed.
I listen and play along until
I get the right tone…
…the strings vibrate,
and I wonder how
I could ever leave this moment
The lights flicker.
Cords sink in.
I raise three voices
They are my song.
Robert Frost had New England, Carl Sandburg had Chicago, Walt Whitman had the Civil War hospitals of Washington and his home in New York, and Emily Dickinson had Amherst, Massachusetts. In this collection from Erin Kelly, her focal point and geographic settings are more within than without. Her mind, her soul, her body, her bedroom, her immediate surroundings, her teachers, family, friends and the spaces she occupies.
Indulge me if you will, clear your mind.
Think of sitting in bumper to bumper traffic. Think of the myriad thoughts that enter and exit your mind as you sit in traffic alone, waiting for the light to change. That running conversation you have with yourself that no one else will ever be privy to.
Now, draw that out. You are always sitting in traffic, you observe others in cars passing by or your immediate surroundings. Now, remove what gifts of privilege you casually take for granted. Now, manage to find meaning in every movement, utterance, human connection, accolade and add a zeal for life and a passion to be acknowledged, heard and understood.
This is the heart of and the art of “How To Wait”.
This isn’t Erin’s first rodeo. She’s an accomplished, poet, writer, editor, journalist and advocate. She’s fearless in her honesty and her technical skills I don’t feel qualified to critique, but as a fan of the written and spoken word, I know what I like. And I enjoy this collection immensely! By sharing her deepest darkness and brightest light Erin is inviting us inside of her heart.
There is a bittersweet longing here. Her craft is such that she leaves us these choice breadcrumbs of phrasing like those in “A Long Way from Hello”
A Long Way from Hello by Erin M. Kelly
April was the first time
I threw my body
into the sea of distance.
I threw my watch in first,
but it’s face floated to the surface,
and the hands rose above.
I’d show you where the bridge brakes,
but friends are still walking across it.
They’re headed for train stops and airports.
They wait in first class
to arrive in places
my wheels don’t dare spin.
With one quick flip of the wrist,
we find ourselves conversing through
wires and letters that we hope will
never tear or tangle.
Erin wants us to know her and her writing is the way she can most succinctly convey what is going on inside. Erin wields her words like a velvet lined gauntlet. She throws them down and challenges us to not look away. This body of work speaks to a deep empathy for others and a talented documentation of how she fits in within this human road show we call life. She is a journalist of the heart. This volume acts as barometer of the soul. How we engage Erin and others who don’t fit within our narrow definitions speaks volumes about our society.
Erin asks us, like all poets before her, “How you livin’ Homie?”
Erin voice is raw, it isn’t pleading nor passive, she is however patient, with others and, with more difficulty herself, as she so eloquently conveys in How To Wait. Erin has cultivated her mind, and honed her talents into a skill set for dealing with an over-ripe, culture of excess. In a land of fast pace, short attention spans, dimming wits and banal assumptions about those who bear different daily challenges or simply forget there are those that struggle out there.
I’ll go out on a limb and state perhaps THE most valuable members of our society are the “cultural canaries”, those who must consider life from a perspective as thoughtful and live as intentionally as Erin. How do we judge our society if not by the qualities we claim we cherish in deed and word? By who’s standards do you wish your children to live by?
“How YOU livin’ Homie?”
There is a great deal I am sifting through upon continued reading and I’m still learning from Erin through her words and deeds. I hope to have the opportunity to interview Erin on this and future projects.
This slim collection in my humble opinion is a syllabus of strength that those who don’t share the fortune of knowing Erin personally can glean some insights from. How To Wait is revelatory and I recommend it whole heartedly.
Available from www.finishinglinepress.com or, use the link below.
All Art – Finishing Line Press
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