Kara Knickerbocker‘s debut chapbook begins, “Blackberried and full, I caught the last flight out of Charleston,” but this isn’t the last flight in this collection, only the first, whether it’s to something (Europe or South America, , new, or renewed love), or away from something (girlhood, love that may have run its course, longing, and regret), but always toward self-discovery. In language both lyrical and concise, Knickerbocker gives us insightful poems about security, whether we can ever truly have it, and if we can live without it, all overshadowed by how slender the thread of our mortality, no matter our age. They manage by turns to be both heartbreaking and uplifting, but never dull. Next to Everything that is Breakable is a strong first book from a writer we’ll be hearing much more from in the future.
–Michael Albright, author of In the Hall of Dead Birds and Viking Tools
The ghosts in Kara Knickerbocker’s debut chapbook Next to Everything that is Breakable may wear bulletproof vests, but the speaker does not. She is riddled time and again with the holes left by lost loves and lost innocence. The broken body is front and center in this collection with every poem calling on different body parts to show their frailties and vulnerabilities, always with a deft use of tactile imagery, but these poems don’t leave the reader or the speaker unmended. These poems stitch cuts from shards of a bottle, these poems recalibrate a heartbeat, these poems lead to a new definition of the body, of the self. Knickerbocker reminds us to “[s]ay how important is is / to still know your own skin below / when it all peels away.”
–Jennifer Jackson Berry, author of The Feeder
Kara Knickerbocker’s Next to Everything that is Breakable is a brilliant debut, blackberried and full. It’s a book about growing up, about the pain of distance, inked with stamps, charging forward like a train that never stops. From Blanes, Spain to Northwestern Pennsylvania, Knickerbocker leads us on a journey of salamanders and constellations, pain and joy, through the displacement of sadness to the exhilaration of the female self. It’s a book that examines the body in all its glory and weakness, from sex in a childhood bedroom to a swollen bruised heart, this book takes aim at what it means to be young, to love, to face illness, to encounter the self with all safeties off. This is a book about the known and the foreign, like a sponge on the ocean floor, it surges, absorbing the reader in in its powerful water trail. From one-stop light Saegertown to the Catalan Mountains, from streaming hot fudge sundaes to paella and pan con tomate, this book explores what it means to be carried away by the world. Its music swallows whole coastlines never swerving off course, pocketing chocolates of ugliness and tasting the want of the incapable self, crawling home unchained and leaving the door wide open.
Next to Everything that is Breakable by Kara Knickerbocker is a terrific book of passion and mortality. These poems open us to our own frailties and the insistent restlessness that makes us human. With an unrelenting voice that finds home in the body, Knickerbocker
states: …there was something/within the chamber/I couldn’t point to/barreling through me/just the same. As this voice grows even more raw, it leaps into ruin both physical and beyond: They carved a slice in my warm bread of a body/served the scar sunny-side up…
This is a brave writer who spins darkness to light, carvings into survival.
–Jan Beatty, Jackknife: New and Selected Poems