Rose McLarney has published two collections of poems, Its Day Being Gone (Penguin Books, 2014) and The Always Broken Plates of Mountains (Four Way Books, 2012). Its Day Being Gone is the 2013 National Poetry Series winner. Rose received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and Warren Wilson College. She is the 2016 Dartmouth Poet in Residence at the Frost Place and won the Fellowship of Southern Writers’ New Writing Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in publications including The Kenyon Review, The Southern Review, New England Review, Missouri Review. She is Co-Editor in Chief and Poetry Editor of The Southern Humanities Review.
McLarney’s books are a poetic series, in which each poem stands alone, but also works as a part of a larger whole, with a theme and narrative arc. In The Always Broken Plates of Mountains, a cast of speakers expresses the thoughts of people who share a rural background and landscape, weaving together accounts of both personal and larger cultural change. Its Day Being Gone is organized around the idea of story-telling, considering the shape-shifting quality of memory, as seen in folktales that have traveled across oceans and through centuries, and in how we form recollections of our own contemporary lives.
Surrogate, transfer, totem, substitute, ersatz—I set out
to say something of an animal without any of that,
not making it enact some strand of human behavior.
Not the peaceful dove, foreboding crow,
hawk standing for fierceness.
The animal itself. The intricacy of feathers, each
nerve-connected, also capable of flight.
What experience is when one is a bird,
does not smell, taste, or wish to stand on the dirt much,
can fly, and swim too, by letting wind and water
flow freely over light bones.
But to put an animal on the page is to still it.
To care for it is to cage it.
Audubon had his birds printed
on the largest paper ever made, at the time.
Yet the birds are contorted, curled and crushed into the corners,
the images always searching out more space, the subjects
too vibrant to be bound in a book.
Who doesn’t know Audubon shot the birds he admired,
stuffed them to make models.
The birds I can study are chickens
in the traffic ahead, crammed into crates, stacked on semis.
The waste of their feathers blows back
and sometimes their whole bodies, in their only
bone-breaking instance of flight. They lay along the roadside,
bodies misshapen by breeding—a great weight on their chests.
It’s breast meat, no metaphor.
Though it speaks of us, as must all the animals, live
and on legs like ours, suspended on highway sides,
where habitats are cut in two. Preparing to cross,
many take the same last pose, lifting one tentative paw,
already, off the earth.