Sympathy from the Devil by Kyle McCord (A Review by Anne Champion)


Gold Wake Press

80 pages/$12.95

Kyle McCord’s Sympathy from the Devil crosses a myriad of celestial and earthly terrains. In this collection, readers encounter God, Gabriel, and, of course, the Devil; they also ride trains named for endangered birds, get tossed off a rusty mechanical bull, all while colliding with pop culture references such as the TV show Lost, werewolves, and Batman. While weaving through themes of love, spirituality, and philosophical meanderings, these poems take the reader to surprising places and topics: necromancy, rude birds, the ship of fools, astronomy, the zodiac and even law school. Each page is a treasure trove, a roller coaster ride of dips and spins- the reader never knows what to expect, but each turn is both terror and thrill.

Poems about God are a long standing subject matter for poets to interrogate, and some even say that poetry itself is a form of prayer. In the essay “Facing Altars: Poetry as Prayer,” poet and memoirist Mary Karr writes: “People usually (always?) come to church as they do to prayer and poetry- through suffering and terror. Need and fear. In some Edenic past, our ancestors began to evolve hard-wiring that actually requires us (so I believe) to make a noise beautiful enough to lay on the altar of the Creator/Rain God/Fertility Queen. With both prayer and poetry, we use elegance to exalt, but we also beg and grieve and tremble. We suffer with prayer and poetry alike. Boy, do we suffer.”  McCord’s collection reminds me of Mary Karr’s Sinners Welcome, both in its use of God and its unabashed employment of humor and the bizarre to broach the Holy Ghost. In my favorite poem of the collection, “Sympathy from the Devil,”McCord writes:

 “When you laugh at Satan, the Lord laughs also.  But Satan does not laugh

when you laugh at your own apish posture in the mirror.  He has an antelope

look in his eyes.”

Later in the poem, he writes:

“…When you deny

Satan, it’s not like confetti falls or heralding trumpets sound. You go on

relishing your Cobb salad on the promenade.” Continue reading