Freak Show

Freak Show
Casey Killingsworth
Fernwood Press


"These poems are hardscrabble-stark, but deeply wise." Former Oregon poet laureate Paulann Petersen on Casey Killingsworth's previous collection, A nest blew down.

We are all freaks, the way we dress, the way we conduct ourselves in grocery stores, the way we think about flowers. To everyone else we are inevitably odd and puzzling. In Freak Show Casey Killingsworth assembles poems outlining his own freakishness, the odd jobs and shifts that earned him his living, the difficulty trying to relate to other people, even how to love. Here he struggles to find a way to address a stranger on an elevator, to a duck walking in the middle of town, to how a bearded lady might address the world, even how history might work:

So how about this: what if all of history is contained in

some woman you barely know, say an older woman, say

one who checks your groceries out at the local market,

who worked at Subway every Saturday of her life but caught

a break when she got hired at the store and then got

promoted to manager...

what if all of history was defined in terms of her, everything that

ever was, and is, poured into a vessel the size of the person scanning

your cereal, hanging onto her every rotation around the earth?

What if?

from "The history of the world for as long as I can remember"

When you stitch all these poems together you will discover the shape of a poet just trying to understand something, anything, of the world.

Reading Casey Killingsworth's collection Freak Show is like lucking into a conversation with the plain-spoken poet on the next barstool. He'll tell you about his life-the losses, the graveyard shifts, the moments of consolation and glory-with so much soul and style, you'll lose track of everything else and go home feeling better about the human race.

Kathleen Flenniken, Washington State Poet Laureate, 2012-2014

In Casey Killingsworth's Freak Show, we are invited to see the world from the perspective of a hardworking laborer, someone who arrives early, leaves late, and works faster than everyone else so long as he is left in peace. The kind of knowledge and experience that comes from having spent one third of one's life on the midnight shift-this is where Killingsworth's poems stake their claim. They show us how in this moneyed world of commerce, to quote Casey's grandmother, "there are no bad days, only hard days." And they remind us that even though the sun may have set, the job is not yet done. Poems still must be written; stories need to be told. By adding this voice and these stories to our ongoing conversation, Killingsworth's poems do more than earn their keep; they sing their hard-earned glory.

Jean-Paul Pecqueur, Professor in English, Pratt Institute, New York, author of The Case Against Happiness (winner of the New England/New York Award)

Casey Killingsworth

has work in The American Journal of Poetry, Two Thirds North, Better Than Starbucks, and other journals. His first book of poems, A Handbook for Water, was released by Cranberry Press in 1995; his latest collection is A nest blew down (Kelsay Books 2021). Casey has a master's degree from Reed College.


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