I Know Your Kind
Selected for the National Poetry Series by Ada Limón, I Know Your Kind is a haunting, blistering debut collection about the American opioid epidemic and poverty in rural Appalachia.
In West Virginia, fatal overdoses on opioids have spiked to three times the national average. In these poems, William Brewer demonstrates an immersive, devastating empathy for both the lost and the bereaved, the enabled and the enabler, the addict who knocks late at night and the brother who closes the door. He shows us the high, at once numbing and transcendent: “this warm moment when I forget which part of me / I blamed.” He shows us the overdose, when “the poppies on my arms / bruised red petals.” And he shows us the mourner, attending his high school reunion: “I guess we were underdressed: / me in my surf shoes / you in an urn.” Underneath and among this multiplicity of voices runs the Appalachian landscape—a location, like the experience of drug addiction itself, of stark contrasts: beauty and ruin, nature and industry, love and despair.
Uncanny, heartbreaking, and often surreal, I Know Your Kind is an unforgettable elegy for the people and places that have been lost to opioids.
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Praise and Prizes
“William Brewer’s exquisite I Know Your Kind is a rare confluence of addiction and surrender in an unsung American landscape. The poems brilliantly attend to the world with surreal lyricism, bitterly truthful narratives, and an ache that’s eased by the thing that saves: language. This work quakes and blooms and dares us to try to resist the world’s grace.”
"Brewer's creative syntax and line breaks bolster his dark and vivid imagery, especially in a few downright unforgettable instances . . . . Despair-inducingly relevant as opioid deaths soar across America, Brewer's depiction of his triumph over his 'shrieking private want' is a revelation."
"Rooted in rural Appalachia, electric with insight and music, William Brewer's poems explore the wreckage of addiction. In language that's luminous and surreal, he makes visible the fractured lives of people moving in and out of halfway houses, pain clinics, and gymnasiums 'full of coffins / full of smaller coffins / full of Oxys.' The poems are elegiac, viscerally present, and reveal the interiority of those struggling at the margins of our society. William Brewer is an immensely gifted poet. I Know Your Kind is a commanding debut."
“With urgency but impeccably composed, harrowing but determinedly non-sensationalistic, William Brewer's powerful and profound debut I Know Your Kind emphasizes the cycle of disillusion and loss that America's worsening opioid epidemic both begets and feeds on. These poems seek out understanding but refuse false hope; the currents that compel them are ancient, cold, and strong; and what saves them from despair is what will keep readers returning to them for a long time to come—namely, the sheer forcefulness and vitality of Brewer’s expression.”