~ by Hannah Rodabaugh
Gretchen Primack’s most recent collection of poetry, Kind (Post Traumatic Press), is protest poetry at its best and worst. At its best, it will make you think; at its worst, it will make you uncomfortable, which will also make you think. The poems, which deal primarily with the inherent dignity of different kinds of animals, will create responses as various as the poems: humility, a sense of the dignity of animals, occasional bewilderment, excitement, and even occasional anger were a few of the many emotional responses that I often felt when reading Kind. This is a compliment. It is rare to read a book of poems, and garner such a variety of emotions and range of emotions while reading it. It certainly makes for exciting reading.
A middle poem, “The Other Half of the Simile,” reiterates what are the most salient themes of this volume. An overwhelming sense of despair fronted within factory farming becomes a short epithet-heavy discussion of human involvement. She hazards:
They beat him like a dog
They packed them in like cattle
They caged them like animals
And why do we chafe not at the beating,
but which being
Not the cage, but who is caged?
Why should any being be packed?
They were animals
He was a beast to her
Who are the beasts?
Just from this segment, we get a sense of how deeply thought and deeply felt concern towards animals is for Primack. This is hardly surprising given her work as a political activist in the animal rights movement. But, she weaves animal rights towards understanding with deftness. Everything is intentional in the landscape of this well-structure volume. For Primack, the rights of animals are human rights, and vice versa. Continue reading