Poems by David Groff
Trio House Press

Reviewed by Chuck Willman


When I received this book in the mail I began by reading the three “praise” paragraphs on the back cover. Before even opening the book, I knew I was in for something pretty amazing, but I didn’t realize how powerful each poem would be.

Written by David Groff, who coedited the anthology Persistent Voices: Poetry by Writers Lost to AIDS, Clay received the 2012 Louise Bogan Award and its judge, Michael Waters, has written, for example, “…the lover named Clay and the hosts (in all senses) made from clay, those who have perished and those who remain alive in this new century where the ‘disease has gone discreet’….”

And I loved the advice of poet Timothy Liu: “If you can, read this book in one sitting, ‘as if you were to die tomorrow.’ Then resume your living with renewed gusto.”

Clay is one of those very rare books of poetry with the ability—the power—to dissect the reader’s mind, scramble it up, and force you to re-think just about everything you thought you knew to be true about yourself and the world around you. And while important “lessons” are woven throughout the book—some making you laugh, some making you cry—the most powerful ones come near the end, right before you’re stitched up again and sent out to face the world.

I was pleasantly surprised to find these poems so brutally fresh and brave. And I was also surprised that I automatically became brave enough to read them. It was as if each poem in Clay was a sort of adventure, or a test: how far is the reader willing to go? I was taken right to an emotional edge at times, and would have to stop for a couple minutes. But I couldn’t put this book down. It was as if it was speaking to me; somehow guiding me through both the hell and the rewards of this virus.

Even if you’re not a huge fan of poetry I’d highly recommend Clay. It’s a beautiful, wise, and profoundly comforting book.

Chuck Willman has had poetry, essays, fiction, and erotica published or forthcoming in anthologies, journals, magazines, and e-books. Find some of his work on and