The Little Book of No Consolation, Becka Mara McKay


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“How strange it is to live in these bodies/and pretend we are not judged,” writes Becka McKay in her newest collection, The Little Book of No Consolation. McKay’s imagination takes us far away from our earthly bodies through dreamscapes of terror and possibilities. With a fanciful Dictionary of Misremembered English and mistranslated phrases as her guide, she reimagines Biblical figures, governments, and language’s very syntax. McKay spins her poems as though spinning plates, on a pole of syntax all her own, the gyroscopic effect dazzling.

—Denise Duhamel


The Little Book of No Consolation is obsessed with the constancy of human error and the smallness of individual experience—which is why it’s so fascinating how large this book is, how much McKay keeps discovering in the world “strapped to [her] eyes.” These poems are self-conscious and self-aware in the best sense, full of complex, startling observations about language, history, violence, God, sleep, and the animals “everywhere around us.” “How many kinds of disbelief can there be?” McKay asks—and yet this is a powerful, hard-won book of real and accumulating faith.

—Wayne Miller


McKay plays with the coordinates of English syntax with dazzling inventiveness. Every poem in this book takes the reader down a surprising new road, on a glorious pursuit of wisdom through our elusive relationship to language and meaning.

—Idra Novey

What We Believe We Believe

Some say God appreciates restraint,
as the oriole prefers the banyan's higher branches,

or as gravity welcomes a canted surface.
Thus containment sucker-punches contrition,

each passing pleasure like another lost note to our ears.
Let's say I feel saintlier when language's unsalvaged sugar

shifts in my jaws. Is this the sacrifice that matters
to the angel's hand, whose feathered pen

inscribes a life's geometry? We should guide each other
to the ends of our days, like tugboats dodging bad barges

misplaced midway downriver. Every life
might be worth scratching into a cavern's rib,

worth practicing in chalk or in charcoal. If I say
Lord, I am dizzied, must I still say let us pray?


Becka Mara McKay directs the MFA in Creative Writing at Florida Atlantic University, where she also serves as faculty advisor to Swamp Ape Review. Publications include a book of poems, A Meteorologist in the Promised Land, and a chapbook of prose poems, Happiness Is the New Bedtime. She has translated the work of Shimon Adaf, Alex Epstein, Suzane Adam, and others from Modern Hebrew.