Cutting It Loose

According to Gary Soto, in the initial poems of Cutting It Loose, David Starkey’s eleventh full-length collection of poems, “Starkey strides through his Sacramento childhood, with ruminations about family, fishing, a dog named Samantha, high school angst, a plumber even, before the unexpected happens: the poet’s geography greatly widens. His world experience becomes reflective, peopled with figures such as Klee and Vermeer, Coleridge and Shakespeare, a captain or two of industry. Europe and Asia are here, mythologies that require a dictionary, the occasional peek at the stars and the destinies they offer as in the exquisite ‘Intransigence of Stars.'”

Peter Grimes, Editor of Pembroke Magazine, writes: “In the title poem of David Starkey’s eleventh collection, Cutting It Loose, a boy’s father instructs him in a ‘realist’ version of catch and release, cutting the caught fish loose with the barb still snagged inside. From this child’s dark paradise in 1970s Sacramento, we’re cut loose and adrift into poems about the worlds of art and music, foreign cities with their own bloody waters, forward and back in time—to the prescient Greeks and seventeenth-century inventors, to an abandoned zoo in Cancun, to Inauguration Day 2020 and the renewal we were gifted by a poet ‘aflame’ in a yellow coat, to another new year and snapshots of protest, the furious rest of a nursing home, and a gallery of poets past. And always, as we journey, we carry with us, sunk in our gullets, the barb that tugs us back home.”

And Susan Kelly-Dewitt finds that “the poems in David Starkey’s new book take us on remarkable travels, to far-off places, to childhood memories, to badland neighborhoods, to quiet moments and heartbreaking disasters, to love and joy and suffering and death–he shows us how, like the fish he cuts loose in the title poem, so many things in our own iridescent lives ‘disappear downward into the passing darkness.’ As in the poem “Ab Uno”–‘Everything from the one…/ Always something’s missing…/A pinprick of light leaking from God’s dark cloak…/A circle. A point. A prayer.’ And yet, these poems feel like his description (in “Coda”) of the hand of an old friend when he shook it: ‘…trembling, yes, but warm and full of welcome.'”

Available from