Originally drafted over a six-month period, the five-line sections of each poem in Reliquaries were written as walking meditations in the hills and woods above and along the banks of the Occoquan River in Virginia. The mind in these poems wanders beyond Virginia to arctic zones, the distances and openness of the American Midwest where the poet grew up, and overseas to Europe, and takes up subjects including the death of family and friends, faith and doubt, beauty and the sublime, philosophy and art. This book is Pankey’s most expansive, accessible, and wide-ranging to date. Reliquaries is written in long lines that, like Whitman’s, catalog and collect, arrange out of the scattershot an order—even if only a momentary order.
“‘Each yesterday glacier-scored, each a dark passage illumined by a honeycomb’: Obviously, if you like your poems richly ornate, Pankey is your man. Here he examines all his yesterdays, reconstructing them in multi-layered language to create memories that are almost tactile.” —Library Journal
“…An engaging litany of Whitmanesque oratorios.” —Harvard Review
“These new poems are haunted by the old. There is, however, a grit to the beauties of Reliquaries. As Pankey’s work has traded the tactics of transparent sincerity for manifest artifice, ironically, perhaps, his poems have increased in pathos. One feels in Reliquaries that one is in the presence of the confession, however gorgeously shaped. And gorgeous this book is as well as thoughtful. These are soliloquies of spiritual surrender addressed to the Thou, overheard by the reader. They are ‘performances ravishing and spellbinding, flames let loose.'” —Lynn Emanuel