Books by Kelle Groom

How to Live: A Memoir-in-Essays

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir

Spill: Poems

Five Kingdoms: Poems

Luckily: Poems

Underwater City: Poems


How to Live: A Memoir-in-Essays
Tupelo Press, 2023

How to Live

"With her dreamy, lustrous writing, Groom invites readers to share her journeys across permeable boundaries.”
Kirkus Reviews
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"The cover of Kelle Groom’s latest book, How to Live (Tupelo Press, 2023) demurely suggests that it is "A Memoir-in-Essays." But once you enter the vast interior of her attention, you discover that you are in a realm rarely navigated in either form."

"But let’s look now at the writing itself, which is the treasure of this book I open at random (knowing I’ll be thrilled on any page)"

"Groom displays an untrammeled freedom to utilize an astonishing variety of sentence structure."

"The book of essays traces a seemingly peripatetic existence from residencies to rentals, including bouts of homelessness and visits to beloved houses, sold and dissolved — ranging up and down the East coast from Florida to Cape Cod, and far west to Las Vegas, Wyoming and California, from mountain top to sea level. Throughout, the writing grapples with the loss of her infant son, addiction and recovery, solitude and encounter, and always a total engagement with what she encounters. At one point she claims, "Each person is a flame I stare into." Searingly, she seeks."

"I was struck repeatedly by the full heartedness with which she observes the contours of her visitations. Would we readers really want her to stop arriving on unfamiliar roads, at new places and into alien rooms, each of which she generates with heart-stopping fidelity? Is this, in fact, not living at its most attentive and alive – "

"And who else lets us in with such apparent transparency, in language that hops and floats and gambols, trusting the punch of a fragment where necessary and the ribbon of sentences when appropriate. Though she speaks compellingly of fear, she also seems fearless, as she lingers in transitory dwellings describing them in such striking language that we alight with her.”
Rebecca Kaiser Gibson's review of How to Live in Tupelo Quarterly #30, July 30, 2023
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"Groom’s ‘memoir in essays’ could almost be called a memoir in poems, so lyrical is her language “Water can be as soft as silk, as it is in the Florida springs; as enveloping as a hug, when in a warm bath — or as sharp as a knife, as anyone knows who's seen a waterjet cutter slice through metal or stone. Water is the natural environment of Florida author Kelle Groom, one she returns to again and again, and whose attributes her writing embodies — both the flowing and the keen. Groom's "memoir in essays" could almost be called a memoir in poems, so lyrical is her language — and so elliptically are events and situations described. It's unusual, but refreshing, to read a memoir that touches this lightly on "plot," unlike most memoirs on bookstore shelves. Those who read Groom's 2011 book, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl, will feel less at sea with some of the references. While the events are roughly sketched, the emotions are limned in crystalline detail. …whatever your literary-critical framework, Groom's evocation of grief and loss (sometimes cloudy, sometimes scalding), and how we learn to live with them, is universally lucid.””
by Jessica Bryce Young, Orlando Weekly, Nov 22, 2023
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"Writing Home : Kelle Groom Publishes New Memoir How to Live "There is a peace in Kelle Groom’s demeanor and an energy to her words that emits serenity. That’s not to say, or dismiss, the full range of emotions and an internal dialogue that is complete in its human experiences. But as a writer Groom is at a point in her life and work where the core of creativity is red hot and has formed its own gravitational pull, expanding in its own universe. As Provincetown glides into October, that month when the air turns crisp, the light is honey-drizzled, and the town’s character begins to return to some sense of normalcy after the wild stampede of summer, Groom still thinks about swimming in the ocean off the Cape tip. Even though she’s over a thousand miles away in Edgewater, Florida, close to New Smyrna Beach, where she works at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, an institution much like the Fine Arts Work Center, her thoughts are in Provincetown, more specifically at the beach at Hatches Harbor where she swims the long season—from early May and into October, at least she hopes to when she’s here for an event at East End Books to celebrate her new book How to Live: A Memoir-in-Essays.

A native Cape Codder whose maternal side has deep roots in Yarmouth and Dennis, Groom grew up with a father in the Navy and moved around frequently. For a portion of her adult life Groom struggled with active addiction and trauma, though now has been sober for quite some time. Over the past 10 years Groom has devoted her life to writing, becoming a celebrated poet for published collections like Underwater City, Luckily, Five Kingdoms, and Spill. For four years Groom came to Provincetown each summer to take week-long course at the Fine Arts Work Center and stay at the White Horse Inn to hone her skills and assemble her spirit in pursuit of the written word.

‘I was trying to figure out how to life a creative life,’ says Groom. ‘How to live with fear and uncertainty and how to live a writer’s life.’ It was both a thrilling and frightening time. But as it is for many, Groom’s relationship to Provincetown in summer was akin to a fling. It was in autumn that she fell in love. She was in a place of complete uncertainty as she’d given up her job to pursue writing and had no permanent home. It was in the fall that friends in support of Groom and her writing offered her a condo for free for the winter. It was just what she needed. And over the time in Provincetown, the natural beauty, the quiet, the community, her commitment to sobriety and recovery meetings, and of course the time to focus and write all gave way to the realization that to pursue a creative life one needs freedom and the support of fellow artists. It was a paradise. She traveled here and there for a few years, but always came back to Provincetown.

‘I was completely broke,’ says Groom. I had a pyramid of Progresso soup cans, and I could have one a day.’ That’s when a job opened up to run the very summer program she once took at the Fine Arts Work Center, allowing her to stay in Provincetown. Her life, in all its facets to date is captured in How to Live as well as in her 2011 memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl. Her writing is beautiful, which makes it all the more striking when she reveals hardships and brutal realities. But there’s no point in pursuing a life as a writer unless its going to be authentic and true to oneself.””
by Steve Desroches, PROVINCETOWN MAGAZINE, October 12, 2023
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" In How to Live’ Kelle Groom Investigates the Meaning of Home “The moment Kelle Groom opens the gray door to her second-floor Brewster Street apartment, a hold-onto-your-hats breeze marking the change in seasons sneaks through. Poetry collections by Nick Flynn, Marie Howe, and Mary Oliver are stacked within arm’s reach of a cluttered desk. Marian Roth’s image of cottages on Route 6A hangs on the wall. Groom, whose fluency is expressed in fiction, poetry, and memoir, as well as in conversation, fills her home with the poets and artists whose work nourishes her own. How to Live covers four years of travel, from Santa Cruz to the Outer Cape, between 2010 and 2014. Provincetown figures in about a third of the stories, in which Groom confronts fears, terrors, and yearnings with uncompromising honesty.””
by Susan Rand Brown, Provincetown Independent, October 11, 2023
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"I was (am) trying to learn how to live with uncertainty. How to stay in the day. “…on November 10, 2013, that was still ahead – the NEA Fellowship, my growing friendship with Larry, my eventual return to Provincetown in 2015 to live and work for seven years. And the book of these years of traveling, HOW TO LIVE: A Memoir in Essays, published just last month. On that day, I was calmed and grateful for my freedom, the time and space - water, light, dunes, friendship, recovery meetings, gift of a home – all helping me learn how to live.”
Past Ten, Nov 11, 2023
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"“Kelle Groom uses all her poetry chops in her new “A Memoir-in-Essays” called How to Live which was published by Tupelo Press in October. In these essays, she continues her quest for “home” in physical travels and travels of the mind (a journey she started in her previous memoir I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl). Many of the essays read like meditated prose poems with their detail-rich imaginings. Each essay is situated by the name of a place and marked by a year. (David Trinidad has written that Ginsberg told him to make sure he dated all his writing.) These places and dates serve as touchstones of a life much like a scrapbook of yesteryear, if scrapbooks could conjure such profound interiority. The essays take us all over the United States—from rentals to artist colonies, to houses now lost. (Think Elizabeth Bishop’s “One Art.”) Groom revisits the child she lost and a doomed romantic engagement with heart wrenching precision. But there is also engagement with the outside world—especially well done in “This Used to be an Ocean” which discusses fracking in Buffalo, Wyoming. Part journalist and part journalist of the soul, Groom gives us an inside look at one woman’s navigation through our troubled and glorious world.””
by Denise Duhamel, Best American Poetry blog, November 1, 2003
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I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl:
A Memoir
Free Press/Simon & Schuster 2011

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of A Girl Book Cover

"The alchemy of the poet’s craft allows Groom to transform the worst horrors—the death of a child and addiction—into a gorgeous tale of grace. With not one word of self-pity, this is an unflinching look at a life saved by forgiveness."
Library Journal’s Best Memoirs of 2011
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“[W]hen the author has been through enough to have learned some big lessons and has the chops to express them well, the result can be exhilarating. Such is the case with acclaimed poet Kelle Groom’s new memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of A Girl… The bare bones of the plot are certainly gripping — the loss of a son she never knew, the lifelong grieving process and investigation of that loss — but it is Groom’s writing that stakes out the book’s place in the genre and, in ways, seeks to elevate it. After reading I Wore the Ocean, you’ll wish that more poets would write their lives in prose — Groom’s voice feels vital and awake, uncompromising and refreshingly spare. Groom beautifully summons the smallest moments from her memory… The writing of this memoir is yet another step in Groom’s return to health, but it has the depth to serve a larger purpose, too. I Wore the Ocean would be a comforting resource for any parent who has lost a child, either to illness or to alcoholism. Groom’s story might even encourage others to mine their histories to reconnect — if only spiritually — with an estranged loved one.”
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"so piercing and true that you live the story as much as read it. Part of the book’s emotional wallop is due to how it’s organized—in short, dreamy chapters than skip forward and back in time, letting you piece together the chronology yourself—and part of it is due to Groom’s exquisite, lyrical prose...extraordinarily moving..."
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"Her image-rich prose and unconventional sense of the paragraph surprise and resonate. Dynamic passages, often intentionally unhinged, tug against familiar expectations... Groom writes about herself without pretending and about others without blaming, delivering wide-eyed observations even in low-lit, murky places. Closing Groom’s book I hear Eudora Welty and Walt Whitman… The ocean is worn, the girl is shaped, visible.”
— New York Times Book Review
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"Kelle Groom’s [memoir] is intimate in a generous, revelatory way. . . . the reader is enlightened as Groom slowly releases her burdens. Discover: A dark journey through addiction, enlightened by lyrical prose and hard-earned wisdom." 
Shelf Awareness
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"Gorgeous, poetic language ... is the backbone of this unflinching look at a life saved by forgiveness. Are you a human being? Read this book!"
Starred pre-pub review, Library Journal
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"Groom’s stunning memoir reads more like poetry than prose and leaves the ‘brain singing with neurons like a city at night.’ . . . . Her astonishing struggle and unique resurrection illuminate the universal human effort to embrace one’s self, accepting personal flaws, demons, and methods of survival.”

“The triumph of Kelle Groom’s memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl, lies in her plangent, poetic prose as she lays bare the onset of her alcoholism at age 15, the child she bore and gave up at 19, and her dead-end jobs, upset parents, blackouts, hookups, and, eventually, slow and steadfast embrace of a sober, creative life.”
— Lisa Shea, Elle

"A visceral, darkly lyrical narrative" 
Kirkus Reviews
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"The beauty of memoir in wise hands is that the author can take a stock character (a drunken teen, for example) and twist your perceptions. Groom turns the experiences of a party girl inside-out, illuminating the architecture of willful oblivion. In a few sentences, she renders an evening of carousing—the blurry rush of emotions and images—with the sparky precision of a Rembrandt etching."
— Oxford American
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"Everything is still and yet moving at once. Then, in the middle of the symphony of destruction and chaos, you find her: the lone survivor. The real strength of Groom’s memoir is her poetic language. I read everything with a pen in hand, underlining passages and phrases that impress me. Usually I have ten, maybe a dozen passages throughout...underlined or starred. With this book, I have a line on every page, sometimes several, bearing the imprint of my admiration and awe. I am not sure that in my lifetime I have ever read anything so rooted in the collective experience of being a woman. I have never been an addict, have never lost a child, yet the way Groom articulates the deepest recesses of the female psyche made me feel a sense of recognition that I have never felt before."
— Brevity
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“Her [Groom’s] writing is a wonderfully compelling mix of simple and lyrical"
Publishers Weekly
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"In a series of beautifully compressed narratives, Groom, who grapples here with the very meaning of motherhood, describes devastating binges... As heartbreaking as this book is, Groom writes with a captivating urgency. Her salvation, a result of her tireless quest for clarity, will leave you cheering."
Susanna Sonnenberg, More
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A "searing yet lyrical memoir"
— Boston Globe
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"Groom, a poet, creates a trance-like state with her writing...surprisingly sweet, heartbreaking and ultimately redeeming."
— Miami Herald
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[I]mportant, though, is the thematic effect of … time-shifting [in I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl]: the sense that the past is irrevocably whirled up with the present, that choices and events from years ago are still with us, that future events will be colored by what happened two years ago and yesterday and right now. This is true, of course, but I’ve rarely seen the idea so subtly expressed in a nonfiction memoir. Tommy has always just died in this story; he’s always about to be taken away; he’s always being held for the first time. The effect is harrowing.”
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"Reading this book can be a mind-altering experience... I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is utterly unlike any other memoir I’ve read...metaphor as brilliant, painful and targeted as a laser. Lovers of language will get pleasurably lost in this account of the mysterious and gradual coalescence of self-identity."
— The Orlando Weekly
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"Expanded from a much-praised Ploughshares essay, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is an unflinching yet deeply poetic memoir that captures the rawness and urgency of addiction as well as the tenderness and heartbreak surrounding the loss of a son. The grace and power of Groom’s voice and the quality of her writing will linger in readers’ minds. "
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
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"It’s difficult to over-estimate the emotional intensity of this book.... If I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is the story of self-loss, it is also a record of the writer’s healing and great strength.  Groom digs perilously deep in her psyche to show us not only the shattering, but her own piecing together of identity.  Self-help groups, hospitalizations, half-hearted interventions, lovers, and anodynes all failed to realize in Groom what writing eventually achieved.  Writing gave Groom a means of uncovering the past, recovering what seemed lost inside her.  Most importantly, it offered Groom and her readers a hypnotic lineage of associations and images that tell the gorgeous and disturbing truth of a life’s journey from chaotic self-erasure to the moment when Tommy and his mother finally see each other as they were, and as they perpetually are in this unforgettable, haunting book.   
— John Pearson, The Florida Review
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“ [A] writer’s poignant tale a search for buried self, child she lost. Halfway into her ravishing mosaic of a memoir, it’s easy to lose count of the dark nights. … The poetry that describes the horror of her downward spiral is alternately beautiful and terrifying… Each memory can be held up to the light to reveal another meaning…the story shimmers... In the end, by breaking a decades-long silence, Groom has weathered her dark nights to earn a soul as big as the ocean. As it gradually takes the shape of a girl, a woman and finally a mother, the reader, too, comes away transformed.”
— Atlanta Journal Constitution
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"Tommy, reborn through his mother’s empathy, is the pearl sprung from the bitterness of Groom’s early life, elegized in a memoir reminiscent of Mary Karr’s Lit."
— Barnes & Noble Review
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"I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is a stunningly written memoir... powerful indeed."
Wendy Hudson, Nantucket Bookworks for Harper’s Bazaar
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"Groom’s lyrical prose is addictive. Brilliantly lucid, richly suggestive and ruthlessly honest, this memoir is a triumph of art and life.
— Naples Florida Weekly
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"[R]endered with graceful lyricism. All events become nearly simultaneous within the narrative, allowing the reader a unique perspective which seems to transcend time... stories in this memoir the pulse that forces life through all of us.
— New Madrid, Summer 2011
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" her. Follow her. The narrative is truer to emotional reality than simple linear time."
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  " Each like a poem." --Her Circle: A Magazine of Women’s Creative Arts and Activism
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— The Book Shelf
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Five Kingdoms: Poems
Anhinga Press 2010
Florida Book Award winner

Five Kingdoms Book Cover

"The Best New Poetry ...unexpectedly moving."
-- Entertainment Weekly
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"The poems in Kelle Groom’s third collection, Five Kingdoms, weave gracefully between the personal and the political, wrestling larger cultural crises down to their human components....This ultimately human need to connect, to comfort, even across millions of years, becomes the driving force of Five Kingdoms....It is rare to find such a range of emotion, intellect and humor housed in one poet-but here it is, and it is a gift. Groom’s is a fiercely intelligent, defiant voice, singing with all her passion and formidable insight."
-- Ilyse Kusnetz, The Florida Review, 2011
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“Kelle Groom’s third book of poetry hauntingly examines how the five kingdoms of living things interact with each other across time and space. Her poems span the globe and the history of Earth, from a three-million-year-old skeleton in Ethiopia to a White House conference with Jeb Bush in Tampa. Groom insists that history, place, and humans are superimposed on each other. [T]he lens of archaeology and architecture renders the curtain between the living and the dead translucent. Groom does not stop with the idea of human resurrection; her poems are a call to recognize the necessity of all life on earth. “Count all the living things,” she commands in the poem “Five Kingdoms”. The balance that must exist on Earth exists in these poems as the merging of human, animal, plant, and element… [One] speaker deals with fear, another speaker confronts the social forces that separate people, saying, “I wanted to walk / toward her, but others rose up between us like the sea.” In Groom’s world, each life rediscovers itself in a reflection of its surroundings. She [also] keenly weaves a consciousness of modern culture into these poems… The urgency is the need to save and cherish all life, and Groom’s gift is making you want to do so.”
--New Madrid, Summer 2010
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"A stunning collection of poems."
-- Poets’ Quarterly, Winter 2011
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"In Kelle Groom’s poem “In the City,” from her new book, Five Kingdoms (her third volume of poetry), a reader must explore loss so seldom discussed we might not otherwise think of it...  Five Kingdoms uses such small intimacies to address isolation, mortality, and love. What moves this reader is Groom’s skill with our common language and her intuitive manner of taking a simple,unremarkable moment and embodying its revelations."
-- Bloomsbury Review, Vol 31, Issue 2, 2011
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-- GRL
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Underwater City: Poems
University Press of Florida, 2004

Underwater City Book Cover

"Underwater City introduces us to a voice that is both ghost-like and full of wonder. Her imagery is as fantastical and as clear as Magritte’s. At times, Groom’s poems are so powerful that they seem to touch at undiscovered emotional centers that both shake and comfort us."
--The Missouri Review, "On Recent American Poetry"
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"Groom skillfully connects loves to losses, generations to one another, and oceans near and distant. . . Each poem offers exceptional craftsmanship, precisely rendered emotions, and haunting images."
--Southern Humanities Review

"Groom proceeds--headlong, staggering and every now and then stumbling onto something extraordinary."
"...on closer inspection they [Kelle Groom’s poems] start to look like another genre altogether -- something almost pre-prosaic. Many are explicitly about dreams, and even those that aren’t tend to follow a dream logic and employ a dream syntax. Their fundamental unit is neither the line nor the sentence, but the thought."
--New York Times Book Review
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SPILL: Poems,
Anhinga Press 2017

There is an untrammelled and bounding energy that resists constraint in Kelle Groom’s latest book of poetry, Spill. Groom seems undaunted by multiplicity—in fact, she dives over and over into the seas of multiple realities, unimpeded by conventional boundaries. Her work inhabits a full spectrum of experience, with no sense of stepping into or out of a tidy middleclass existence. It is an all-embracing wash of realities.

In the opening poem, "The Lost Museum," there is the fervent if troubling line, "If someone must saw open / my chest I want all this light to be what spills out." There is not only the presumption that life might or must involve someone sawing open one’s chest, but also the enlightened vision about what the speaker hopes she harbors.

This early and literal mention of spilling is passive, as the collection also contains poems in which the spill of language is actively engaged. In "L’Amoureuse," a rhythmic incantation of anaphoras enumerates what "she has." A deceptively adorable spill of incisive comparisons expresses, then, seemingly, normalizes, one’s profound insecurities:

          She has the breaking point of my hard plastic pink flipflops

                    She has the hypnosis of my shuffle to the kitchen for coffee

                    She has the conversation of my black caterpillars in their fur

                              coats, curling uncurling by the door last winter,

                              hello, hello

Then, suddenly, the speaker summarizes them:

                    She has the song and dance of my rage turned against the self

The way Groom equates the quotidian and the submerged is striking. There is no marked division of the register shift, from morning kitchen coffee to rage against the self.

In an early interview, Groom remembered her first encounter with Jayne Anne Phillips’ work and her own sense that she had previously lived in a house with closed windows. While reading Phillips’ book, "shutter after shutter opened." That is this reviewer’s experience with Groom’s book. My own dutiful avoidance of risk was spilled over and revealed as a rigidity that limits encounter with life.

That spill connotes the motion of liquid is appropriate. There is tension in the book between (perhaps impermanent) stasis and motion. One can detect this dynamic even in the number of locations—they are often emotional states given place, then inhabited on multiple levels.

In the spirit of listing, here are some poem titles in the book that allude to location:

                   The Lost Museum,
                   St. Petersburg
                   Shark Bite Capital of America
                   The Anti-Suicide Hotel
                   The Nun Hotel
                   Community Sleep Disorder Clinic
                   South Station, 1968
                   Hôtel Dieu

These titles refer to places of ruin, of transience, and in some instances, unexpected transcendence. Though, in Groom’s hands, this is felt first as a vivid awareness of the temporary thereness of objects, and simultaneously, as an eventual and even longed for spilling into a vastness of ocean.

In the shapely stanzaic poem, "Estate," which seems to itemize objects as in a sale, the list of objects includes the following:

                             someone turns

                   a teapot, tries to read the message on the bottom.

                   The box at my feet looks familiar,

                   Labeled "Writing" in purple magic marker.

                   Poems I’d written on envelopes, bills

The end of the poem offers this perspective:

                    but there are thousands of lives getting ready

                    to push toward the hush over head, the raft

                    of weeds. I move a coconut out of their way,

                    clear the main drag down to the sea.

Here, even in these lines extracted from the poem, one sees vivid temporality. The very premise of the estate sale objects severed from their origins allows for momentary nostalgia. However, that halting the motion of time long enough to notice that the marker is "purple" and "magic," for instance, is always in the context of continual motion "to the sea."

The domains of the poems are temporary locations on the way somewhere. Or, perhaps, on the way to not being somewhere known.

In "Booby Trap," the speaker reveals:

                                                                                 I liked to purposefully

                   get lost in cities turned around

                                I thought that if I paid no attention

to the streets     signs    I could run into my life by surprise      the one

that always hid from me in my horizontal     parallel existence

Many of the poems feel autobiographical, about running toward life. The speaker is sometimes a waitress, often on the road, sometimes alone in diners, once with a stranger who "wanted to show me a building that appeared thin / as a credit card, or with a dark hole through the center." The speaker of these poems is intrepid. She goes where she sees to go. She is not constrained by self-imposed restrictions, at least not in the narratives that emerge in flashes in these poems. There is an absence of hesitation, a spilling over into whatever fascinates, what is alluring. A shadowy cast of characters inhabits the poems, a "friend not quite / My friend." In the case of "The Anti-Suicide Hotel," "I thought it was the Suicide / Hotel. Waking, / I knew I had to find it."

This poetry is self-aware, skillful, and reveals a honed attention to language and its origins and resonances. Take, for instance, the haunting poem "Hour," in which the sound of the word, rendered as "Ow wah" evokes a beloved and deceased uncle who called it that, as well as a whole desolate and almost howling world, "in need of a blanket, everything cut and named."

Groom’s work remains dauntlessly free-floating. As the final stanzas of this daring collection announce in "Hôtel Dieu," she

                      could glide

    into the ocean, seagulls carrying stars

    in their mouths, dropping them from the sky

    to crack open on the sea round rocks, the path

    leading into the horizon not here,

    invisible, but I can feel it saying, come along.

And so we would "come along" with Groom, into her fully felt worlds, towards them, without prejudice, without even knowing where we are led, with an almost quiet unflinching faith.

--THE LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS, Reviewed by Rebecca Kaiser Gibson:
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What does it mean to spill? Kelle Groom’s latest collection offers us a few homophonic versions of this word—to spill, as in party foul; to spill as in, divulge, Spill your heart out; or, by extension, the two of these things combined, forming the spills of our words cascading into one another, the spills of our inebriated language. The effect is one of a rolling, intentional movement, whether quickened or slowed. Within this range of voice and language, Groom’s latest collection offers to us speakers who contemplate her endless world of possibility within the shallows and depths of love.

Love can often feel broken. The reader of this collection, then, is forced to contemplate Groom’s speaker’s world of love in broken forms, as in "The Great Nebula of Orion," which recounts a shark being fished from the ocean by a tourist. The poem is highly caesuraed, with indentations within the lines, and peppered with second-guess phrases like "I doubt it will be a shark but there it is, head whipping back & forth, / what drowning is for me" or "Does the shark let the boy reach inside." This act of violence upon this nongendered shark is, thus, not simply a fisherman’s leisure activity, but an extended metaphor for the speaker’s relationships. Imagery, like we see within this poem, and throughout this collection, focuses on the oceanic, the edge of the tides, the possibility of drift or setting sail. And here, from Merriam Webster, is yet another definition of spill: to relieve a sail from the pressure of the wind so as to reef or furl it.

The list, again, runneth over syntax, in the poem, "Message on a Coffee Cup," where Groom’s speaker passes by a coffee cup, then, stepping over some "newly dead" in the "stepping dark," this speaker sees a man at the ". . . Citgo / beside the Bottoms Up bar," then wants to be seen by him:

    a man who brings home sweets digging
    in from the force of driving waves, planks
    with dark nails, shinnying doors . . .

The object of desire—in this case, what appears to be a sexy fisherman—becomes further fantasized in nonsensical love as Groom’s initial quickened syntax, follow this long, meandering sentence, only to arrive with "frilly-tailed creatures pop-out, see me, the shadow," so that a new sentence (the imperative see me) is lumped in between commas, among a cascade of thoughts and imagery, as these thoughts crash into the terceted poem’s final one line, finished off with an internal rhyme. Otherworldly confusion, along with form, then, mimic the encounters of what it’s like when we see someone and immediately fall in love with them (and don’t tell me you haven’t been there).

More syntactically logical poems balance the collection, such as Groom’s love poem for Larry Levis titled "May Day," in which the grocery-shopping speaker encounters one of Levis’s poems in a magazine, reflecting that digesting the poem was "like having had sex & dressing too quickly." The speaker then goes about her daily errands: laundry, walking through the parking lot, carrying the groceries back to her place through a fog, but not before noticing "spider / Webs hanging down like the beards or braided / ponytails of old bikers," noticing the fog, "full of cool water, breathing like drinking," and noticing "four pink flowering trees, like Sisters." Levis, then, through his verse, enlivens this speaker into a better existence, sensory and detailed.

But where Groom most succeeds in this collection is within her most permeable poems, those poems in which the reader is forced to interpret with such broken information. The poem "My Life is Not a Riding a School" starts with a scene of a drunk driver driving down "a lightless country road" as "Heavy thrown things hit / the sides of the van thudding." Not only are the headlights turned off but the driver is laughing, which creates a sense of impending doom from the very beginning of this poem. The speaker retreats into her thoughts, imagining Spiderman adhering to this van, "Or just the dark made manifest attacking us." From here, and this is the most exciting thing Groom did for me in this collection, the speaker breaks apart the words: "Manifest struck by the hand / palpable evident a hand + akin to," then takes each definition, leading into new thought, a new word, broken up into its etymology:

    Crave is to demand what’s right To beg The synonym is desire
    Compulsion: that which compels driving force Compel:
    together + to drive see FELT

and a few lines later,

    Surrender: up + to render To give up possession of to abandon     to give oneself up to another’s power esp. a prisoner—
    why is that so appealing like sleeping?

When we finish, this poem has literally torn itself apart in a rabbit hole of language, broken. The result for the reader is a highly successful battering of language to translate a destructive relationship between Groom’s speaker, the passenger, and the dangerous "he," the driver of this van.

Groom offers us a collection of poems that are at once connected and disjointed. Her variations of syntax and language mirror love and its many consequences. An early poem, "42," about the demolition of a beach house, serves not only as an extended metaphor, but also as a demolition of language through its lack of logical syntax, as when we see, "all / the tops spinning, the strength you were given with a child / in your arms will never let go." Here, we are exposed to possibility: what is it that’s not letting go? Syntactically, it’s the noun strength, but it appears among a list, so is it all these things? Should I, as a reader, read it as simply the arms not letting go? I don’t—because the creation of these questions is what gives the poem, and this collection, its power.

With such different contemplations, with forms broken as well as intact, the reader is forced to ask what Groom is ultimately saying about love in her collection. One of her later poems in the collection, "Earth Stars," may help to answer this question. In it, the speaker is in the hospital, getting strapped down, ready for labor:

                 Dwell is to lead astray
     to hinder    delay    what am I late for
     curled up in myself ready to spill

To spill, then, is what happens when we allow ourselves into love, into another human being. And much like her oceanic images, Groom’s poems are open and pouring.

--THE KENYON REVIEW, Reviewed by John Bonnani:
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KNPR Interview
(April 5, 2012):
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Boston Globe Q&A
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Miami Herald
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NBC Miami
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A Conversation with Kelle Groom (from Simon & Schuster RGG)
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Barnes & Noble Q&A with Kelle Groom
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Simon & Schuster Q&A
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Radiant Light
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32 poems
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her circle ezine
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Orlando Sentinel
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