Listen closely to these poems’ quiet but insistent murmur. Lily Iona Mackenzie meditates on the textures of her California neighborhood as well as distant lands—Italy, Spain, Russia, Mali. Her poems lovingly embrace jazz, classical music, four paintings by Matisse, a grandfather’s voice, a 3-year-old niece. With concision and lucidity, she writes of birdnests destroyed by cutting nearby trees and how “Age cuts into us,” and she “leans on form and shape/ to arrive at an understanding of” desire, anxiety, time, the mysteries beneath the sea and, really, everywhere. Each poem offers surprising images and perceptions, and collectively they answer “The Artist’s Call”—to “capture these/ fleeting days/ on earth.” What a gorgeous book!
—Kathleen McClung, author of Temporary Kin and A Juror Must Fold in on Herself
What is art, and what happens to us when we see or make it? These questions animate Lily Iona MacKenzie’s California Dreaming. From ancient Egyptian artefacts to Richard Serra’s sculpture, from martial music on Red Square to Dvorak and Copeland via a scenic route that takes us on a multi-part journey through Matisse, MacKenzie shows us what she numbers among poetry’s true aesthetes. Even travel and family come to her first as forms of beauty. Beauty, though, never fully shelters us from a world of moral urgencies—injustice and violence hover just on the edges of these poems, reminding us that our sense of the beautiful is both fragile and essential.
—Robert Archambeau, Alice B. Toklas is Missing, Laureates and Heretics and Poetry and Uselessness, The Poet Resigns, Inventions of a Barbarous Age