I KNOW YOUR KIND (MILKWEED EDITIONS, 2017)
Selected for the National Poetry Series by Ada Limón, I Know Your Kind is a haunting, blistering debut collection about the American opioid epidemic and poverty in rural Appalachia.
“These poems examine, interrogate, and tend to questions of rural selfhood, the opioid epidemic and the political in a vernacular that unflinchingly grafts itself from our American moment. While other projects examine addiction through a singular and limited self, Brewer’s collection is a prime example for what can be accomplished when a poetical praxis is used to implement large and tricky-to-wield questions, particularly by moving outward to thoroughly probe an epidemic as it effects a state, a region, a people—as well as the individual. It holds our gazes to the underbelly and shows us that, here, too, the imagination thrives and, like all undeniable art, is written in spite of all the things that work to silence it.” - Ocean Vuong
Stephanie Burt, writing for American Poet, published by the Academy of American Poets, calls I Know Your Kind a “pitch-perfect, tightly focused first full-length collection,” that places “Brewer . . . in a tradition of writing about dependence and emotional extremes, one that goes back from Nick Flynn to Thomas De Quincey, and—perhaps sadly—won’t shut down anytime soon.”
“Brewer descends the rabbit hole of opioid addiction and its cycles of despair in his penetrating debut . . . Despair-inducingly relevant as opioid deaths soar across America, Brewer’s depiction of his triumph over his “shrieking private want” is a revelation.” - Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“I Know Your Kind endures as a riveting and poignant debut where Brewer captures the horrors of substance abuse, the spiritual rigors of recovery, and ultimately, the fraught relationship between an obliterated landscape and self-obliteration. . . . I Know Your Kind may be one of this year’s most important books of verse since its brutal music confronts the taboos of addiction while simultaneously offering hope for overcoming them. While our purgatorial political discourse fails to produce the imagination or courage necessary to combat the opioid epidemic, it is heartening to know such things can be found among our poetry.” - Adam Tavel, Plume
“William Brewer’s exquisite I Know Your Kind is a rare confluence of addiction and surrender in an unsung American landscape. The poems brilliantly attend to the world with surreal lyricism, bitterly truthful narratives, and an ache that’s eased by the thing that saves: language. This work quakes and blooms and dares us to try to resist the world’s grace.” - Ada Limón
“Rooted in rural Appalachia, electric with insight and music, William Brewer’s poems explore the wreckage of addiction. In language that’s luminous and surreal, he makes visible the fractured lives of people moving in and out of halfway houses, pain clinics, and gymnasiums ‘full of coffins / full of smaller coffins / full of Oxys.’ The poems are elegiac, viscerally present, and reveal the interiority of those struggling at the margins of our society. William Brewer is an immensely gifted poet. I Know Your Kind is a commanding debut.” - Eduardo C. Corral
“The poems in William Brewer’s powerful and profound debut give America’s worsening opioid epidemic ‘a local habitation and a name.’ That name is Oxyana, slang for Oceana, an impoverished coal town in the poet’s native West Virginia, where ‘death is a natural resource’ and the statewide fatality rate from prescription painkiller and heroin overdose has recently jumped to one every ten hours. Bristling with urgency but impeccably composed, harrowing but determinedly non-sensationalistic, I Know Your Kind acknowledges the socioeconomic factors contributing to this crisis, but its emphasis lies instead on the cycle of disillusion and loss that the crisis both begets and feeds on. ‘I know you know,’ Brewer writes in an address to a hooked trout, ‘I’m over waking up / pretending to be happy about waking up.’ Painfully cognizant even of their own interest in oblivion and a ‘sleep that forgets to breathe,’ these poems seek out understanding but refuse false hope; the currents that compel them are ancient, cold, and strong; and what saves them from despair is what will keep readers returning to them for a long time to come—namely, the sheer forcefulness and vitality of Brewer’s expression, which startles with its ‘thunderheads cracking their knuckles,’ its barn ‘rising from the green wheat / …like a rogue wave with a hankering to drown.’” - Timothy Donnelly
OXYANA (POETRY SOCIETY OF AMERICA, 2017)
Selected by Marilyn Nelson for a 2016 Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship.
Publication Date: May 11, 2017
"I stopped counting the number of times I threw my head back with a sob as I read these poems. Or how often I thought, simply, Wow. William Brewer's Oxyana presents a portrait of a community writhing in crisis. Bleak, raw, wrenching . . . This is a poetry of beautifully imagined, almost cinematic detail." - Marilyn Nelson