In The Machinery of Grace, Patrice Boyer Claeys expertly weaves lines from voices as diverse as Toi Derricotte and Emily Dickinson into Centos which are entirely clear, tight, and cohesive. This is collage that’s so seamless, it becomes something else—a realistic portrait of motherhood, of domesticity, of grief, and of grace. Here, she is crying out in the voices of so many with one solid and constant I. Like unruly hair braided tight and neat, her lines reflect their tamer more than their original selves. This work becomes one important voice. She is “a woman looking backwards,” but also, she is like the water images which run through, she’s rushing ever forward, changing the landscape, binding it all together. Her words show us that language is the machinery of grace. It’s how we cope with things like the death of a parent, and it’s how we find ourselves.
--Sara Moore Wagner, author of Hooked Through
Patrice Boyer Claeys’ The Machinery of Grace employs the cento form (from the Italian word for patchwork), deftly stitching together borrowed lines to create a tapestry out of grief and loss. But the real machinery behind this collection is this poet’s ability to pluck lines from the source like ripened fruit and crystallize them into moments of grace that transcend even death, invoking childhood’s “muscle memory of love,” the daily pleasures of a cup of coffee or beer’s “frothy feet,” and the consolations of “blue, the most grateful color.” Examining the rich and seamless weave of these poems, we find ourselves in the hands of a true artisan of words: “My hands are for stringing / the best parts of things . . . / the click, the whirr, the eddying forward.”
—Angela Narciso Torres, author of Blood Orange and What Happens Is Neither
Patrice Boyer Claeys has a sharp eye and ear for poetic lines that cut like a knife, soothe like a mother’s gentle hands, or make you want to break out in a song of praise. Borrowing lines from a wide variety of poets, Claeys has an unusual talent for weaving them into the tapestry of rich, meaningful poems. There are centos here that break the heart and others that bring hope and, as the title suggests, grace. Once you have read TheMachinery of Grace, you will want to read it again and again.
—Wilda Morris, author of Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick
In her opening poem Claeys declares, “We have / risen from roots / born to age and die.” Her message tells of the wreckage aging wreaks and the emptiness that arises from the death of her mother. But Claeys does not leave us bereft; she travels along the “slope” of her mother’s life to give new meaning to familial relationships and the powers of renewal and love. These poems are built “of ripened memory…of something more permanent.”
It never ceases to amaze me, the capacity of poets to lay bear with unflinching honesty what is deep within us all. This is a powerful collection, which reads like a narrative poem, and whose lingering impact is captured in its title, both lovely and shattering.
The imagery, and the struggle of inescapable love and commitment is almost biblical in its scope, which wouldn't be out of place if I read it in the laments of the great prophets of the Hebrew bible. I read the entire collection twice through in one setting, it is accessible and beautiful writing whose imagery sometimes made me wince, but which also invited me to stare hard at the scale of a mother's love and the depths to which some of us can sink.
I loved the rhythm of the book as well. When I turned the page to "On the Morning of My Grandson's Baptism" I wanted to cry out with relief and joy. And then the next poem, finishing with "Hush, hush my love. All these things happened." was just beautiful.
But that is not the end, and I imagine it took some courage to refuse to finish there. The struggle of love admits not easy solution and so the wrestle goes on.
A terrific first collection, I look forward to the next. --Glenn Jordan, www.crookedshore.com life, theology and spirituality on the county down shoreline
Lovely Daughter of the Shattering, Kelsay Books, 2019
The poems of Lovely Daughter of the Shattering somersault the reader into a chronicle of a mother’s valiant efforts to be the “stand-in love” for her daughter. Patrice Boyer Claeys’ mesmerizing first collection feels at times confessional, revelatory, and tragic as the narrator divulges just how elastic a mother’s arms can be. The aching voices of both parent and child will resonate with any reader who has lived or witnessed the dance of embrace, resist and survive. Ultimately, it is a book of compassion, a mother’s tale of “a body given to shield you from the night.”
—Gail Goepfert, Associate Editor, RHINO Poetry, author of A Mind on Pain, Tapping Roots and Get Up Said the World
In Claeys’ powerful debut collection, Lovely Daughter of the Shattering, the poems illuminate complexities of parenting a child with mental disorders. The book encompasses a range of experience, from adopting, to weathering a tumultuous adolescence, to nurturing an adult child. The poems are remarkable for the empathy they display both for the pained speaker/parent and for the angry and hurting child. Loving such a daughter can require the destruction of assumptions to clear space for real connection. The frequent use of the cento form, which re-purposes lines from others’ poems, underlines the universality of these problems. This book is an eloquent, honest, and inspiring account of the power of persistence of love.
—Marjorie Tesser, Editor-in-Chief, Mom Egg Review, author of The Important Thing Is and The Magic Feather
The image-drenched poems in Patrice Boyer Claeys’ compelling collection shatter the myth of easy mother-daughter love, leaving behind a truth most parents are unwilling to hold. The daughter’s eyes follow us through these poems. The baby “eyes all mine” become the toddler’s “golden irises.” All too soon they change to the “black-rimmed, streaming eyes” of a teenager. The daughter, now a single mother, turns her gaze to her infant son and asks, “Do you love me?” The poet’s own unflinching eyes refuse to look away. This brave book shows that although motherly love cannot heal all, it can hold fast.
—Barbara Kreader Skalinder, author of The Music of Teaching
Brave, shocking, and heart-rending, Patrice Claeys' Lovely Daughter of the Shattering conjures a mother/daughter relationship with non-stop skill and nerve. Lyrical yet packed with details which illuminate a family perpetually in crisis, these poems come to us wearing many forms, including 11 remarkable centos. It is lovely and moving—certainly never boring—to read this book.