Tyree Daye’s “River Hymns”

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of Rocket Fantastic and featured poet for 4X4CLT in June 2017, served as final judge for the American Poetry Review’s Honickman First Book Prize. She chose Tyree Daye’s River Hymns, citing the poet’s ability “to show us a world we thought we knew and then expand our understanding.” Daye joins Charlotte Lit as featured writer for 4X4CLT in June 2018.

Daye is from Youngsville, North Carolina, a small town northeast of Raleigh with a population of 1,157 according to the 2010 census. The poems in this collection are imbued with a sense of that place. Action happens at home, in church, and outside. The separation between inside and outside is a thin one. Outside is close, sometimes capricious, where threat and beauty reside in equal measure. In “Wade Through,” the speaker’s mother is quick to pass along inherited warnings:

The presence of extended family, both living and dead, is keenly felt in these poems and the separation between those two states is also a thin one. The speaker’s grandmother is dead, but that doesn’t stop him from speaking to her. In “How Long Is Her Hair Now?” he asks, what’s the price of being / obsessed with the dead? It’s a question the poet returns to again and again. Earlier in that same poem he admits she sometimes answers back:

As one would expect from a book with “river” in its title, currents run through this book. Yes, the actual rivers—the Haw and the Neuse are named specifically—but so is the river of gin that ensnares many. As Daye notes in “Southern Silence,” one of the collection’s standouts:

And in “What is God but Rain Spilling Me Over?” the dead also gather near the river to drink and confess / in the ribcage of the pines. The strongest current, though, is that of extended family. In “Sore,” the speaker says he comes from a clutter of folks and they’re all here: aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, alive and dead, where they live, where they’re buried, what they liked to eat, how they liked to play. The family’s geography weaves in and around the rivers, living in houses they don’t own, where people they love have died or “made ghost” and haunt them still.

Calvocoressi wrote that in River Hymns she encountered “new ways to think about family and community, new ways to wrestle with my own landscape and legacy.” That’s the gift Daye’s plain-spoken but beautifully wrought lyrics offer us.

Join Charlotte Lit in welcoming Tyree Daye for two events on Wednesday June 6:

Master Class, 10 am to 1 pm: Tyree Daye teaches a master class at Charlotte Lit, “Writing the I—Giving our Poems Identity.” In this workshop, framed by Barbara Guest’s “Invisible Architecture” and Vievee Francis’ “Coming to the ‘I,’” we’ll take a look at the way the poet’s personal narrative and the poem’s symbols frame the structure and emotional connection to images. We’ll also learn ways of diving into the subconscious, where many of the images we use in our writing exist, and consider those moments of coming up for air, when our written work begins to develop identity. Register here

4X4CLT Release Party, 6:30-8:30 pm: Join us in celebrating the next release of 4X4CLT posters, featuring poems by Tyree Daye and art by Hasaan Kirkland and Kathie Roig, at C3 Lab in South End. Tyree reads from his award-winning collection River Hymns, and Kathie speaks about the creative process for her handwoven art, which will be on display. We’ll also have craft beer courtesy of Triple C Brewing and delicious bites from Earl’s Grocery. Free!