Dan Brady: Strange Children

Frances Mac

Dan Brady: Strange Children
by Dan Brady
Publishing Genius Press

How do we survive trauma? In times of crisis, from where do we pull strength and build hope? Dan Brady explores these questions in his first full-length collection, Strange Children.

Brady’s project is an intimate narrative: a medical crisis threatens a couple’s plans for the future. The poem “Stroke Diary” beautifully chronicles the grief and fear of that unknown, and the tenacity and moments of triumph that make survival possible. 

Our life together,
like a great whale

breaching, or rather
as fast as a fish

picks a single fly
from the river water

Brady’s restraint in language creates depths meaning in the unsaid, and it’s where Strange Children really shines. Reading this sparseness mirrors our need to leave our dearest hopes safely unuttered, carefully unformed, so that we are more prepared for their obliteration.

Take this lovely tidbit from “A Newborn Fact”:

We went home with our newborn
and our newborn fact
and let our imagined futures
dissolve like blood clots

We feel Brady’s gratitude for his healthy wife and child, but there is still conflicted longing for the “futures” unborn – the children that will never be.

This is a collection that demands to be reread, to unpack the layers of meaning between what we say and how we feel. Exemplifying this is the series of four poems on meetings with birth parents, peppered throughout the last half of the book, concise yet complex pieces that are among the collection’s most successful. In “Questions of History” for example, Brady delicately examines the readiness for adopting a child, for welcoming a stranger into the family:

of history
rarely concern
the past.
You can never know
how strong
you’ll need to be.

Countering these instances of doubt is a faint biblical thread that runs through the book, suggesting comfort and steadfastness. The title itself invokes Psalm 144:7, in which David praises God for helping him vanquish the enemies that threaten him: “Send thine hand from above; rid me, and deliver me out of great waters, from the hand of strange children.”

We all encounter strange children in our lives, realities that challenge us, test our resolve, force us to consider new futures. Does faith get us through? Or our own strength to weather the worst?

Dan Brady’s honest and emotional verse takes us through his own experience. And by the time the closing poem “Summer” comes around, one can’t help but root tearfully and joyfully for a happy ending.

Frances Mac is a poet, cooperative activist and bookstore supervisor for Busboys and Poets Books in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in Epigraph Magazine, Burnt Pine Magazine and The MacGuffin.

Smartish Pace
Smartish Pace