âJuly,â the fourth collection of poetry by Albany-born Kathleen Ossip examines 21st century America through the lens of a road trip from Minnesota to Florida. While the narrative of the American road has been explored by artists ranging from Jack Kerouac to Paul Simon, Ossip’s reflections on religion, femininity, and aging in the United States endow this trope with exceptional originality and nuance. artistic. Although she writes with a keen understanding of American political tensions, Ossip’s expression of those hesitations in the third section of “July,” weakening an otherwise powerful display of social conscience and lyrical talent. Regardless of his few shots, âJulyâ by Ossip represents a frank and courageous portrait of the author’s journey to the very heart of his nation.
Divided into three sections, “July” is most powerful when it vividly describes the mundane elements of American life. âOn Boredomâ, the third poem in the collection, is truly remarkable in this way. By juxtaposing crucial elements of American iconography – like the Broadway musical – with memorabilia of his beloved aunt, Ossip puts forward his later critiques of the nation in a deep appreciation of his cultural heritage. Indeed, throughout âJulyâ, Ossip brings his readers’ experiences into conversation with his, drawing on a wide range of cultural references such as âCitizen Kaneâ, McDonald’s and Georgia O’Keeffe. In his poem “July 4” (another featured), Ossip points out the havoc that America’s independence has wrought on its global neighbors through a short line about a dog’s fear of fireworks. These subtleties, which can be found in each section of the collection, demonstrate an astonishing intentionality in the author’s choice of imagery.
Additionally, Ossip’s expert use of motherhood as a lens through which to view America is refreshing and deeply touching. She beautifully and honestly recounts her feelings of jealousy, protection and fear for her daughter, Muriel, in a way that recalls the reflections of Joan Didion in her seminal prose work, “The Year of Magical Thinking”. In a particularly haunting line from the poem “July 13”, Ossip learns that Muriel doesn’t know the difference between a pony and a foal and wonders what else she hasn’t taught her daughter. Through this little moment, Ossip deftly expresses all the fear inherent in raising a girl in an environment as hostile to women as America seems – a sentiment particularly resonant in the wake of restrictive new abortion laws in Canada. Texas.
It’s when Ossip moves away from his moving descriptions of the ordinary to big statements about the failures of the American experiment that his distinct voice begins to deteriorate. In âJuly 11,â for example, Ossip writes: âIt’s easy to love a country if you avoid its people. While this line may have seemed deep in isolation, when placed alongside such exceptional poetry about motherhood and cultural values, it falls flat, reading itself as mundane and unquestioning. Disappointing lines like this crop up with increasing frequency in the third section of âJuly,â titled âThe Goddess,â with mundane remarks about global warming and power strewn everywhere. Nonetheless, this section also includes some of the most experimental and thoughtful poems in the entire collection, as Ossip explores the role of women as objects for sex and birth in certain subsets of American culture.
In-depth analysis of the factors that make the vast United States beautiful, complex and terrifying, Kathleen Ossip’s âJulyâ is largely successful in describing a woman’s increasingly personal encounters with her country. Beyond her skillful illustration of motherhood, Ossip’s contemplation of consumerism and religion is poignant throughout the collection and represents an original twist on the traditional narrative associated with the American road trip. Despite a handful of contrived moments, âJulyâ is worth reading as we attempt to find a cohesive identity as Americans in a rapidly changing and intensely polarized era.