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Darren C. Demaree stuns in new collection. "Each chapter read like a chant—repetitive and persistent, in search of something greater."

Darren C. Demaree grew up in Mount Vernon, Ohio. He is a graduate of the College of Wooster, Miami University, and Kent State University. He is the author of seventeen poetry collections, most recently “the luxury”, (January 2023, Glass Lyre Press). He is the recipient of an Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award, the Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press, and the Nancy Dew Taylor Award from Emrys Journal.  He is the Editor-in-chief of the Best of the Net Anthology and Managing Editor of Ovenbird Poetry.  He is currently working in the Columbus Metropolitan Library system, and living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children. 


Darren C. Demaree, author of nineteen poetry collections, recently released his twentieth. Strange and avant-garde, “in defense of the goat that continues to wander towards the certain doom of the cliff” is a twisting maze of revelations, continuously experimenting with form and content in revolutionary ways. 

The collection certainly was confusing at first glance. Each chapter read like a chant—repetitive and persistent, in search of something greater. The concept behind the title is originally Mary Ruefle’s, a writer who recalled a story from a long Emily Dickinson biography. One day, Dickinson’s nephew came to her home in tears, recounting how his teacher berated him for telling his class about a white goat who lived in his attic. The teacher accused him of being a liar, angering Dickinson to no end. She told her nephew to tell his teacher to visit her house, for there was a goat in the attic. She had seen it herself, chewing on grass. 

Ruefle’s essay centers itself on the bounds of imagination, and it's much of what Demaree’s collection concerns itself with, too. The goat represents our imagination, as well as ourselves. The goat dreams just as we dream, and we all are dreaming of a better future. However, these dreams are constantly battered and belittled by harsh reality, represented by the teacher in Dickinson’s story. On page 44, Demaree writes, 

the old anxiousness that god was

going to move our planet from one

ear to another ear has been replaced

by the anxiousness that the god

we imagined only ever consumed

& shat because we as human beings

rarely do more than consume

& shit so what miracle is this life


Demaree is struggling with the inevitable destruction we’re inching toward. The goat has escaped the attic, just as how human imaginations have expanded far beyond what could ever be thought of in Emily Dickinson’s time. Now, he has a newfound freedom, but he’s wandering closer and closer to that cliff, a consequence of increased knowledge and development.  

So, as creatives, people who are plagued with imaginations that allow us to see where our improvements are taking us, how do we continue to exist? First, Demaree requires we acknowledge how we got to this point. “we placed the hook inside our mouths / called ourselves planners." Oftentimes, those with big imaginations are at the forefront of developments, technological or otherwise. Between Artificial Intelligence and pollution from the infrastructure of modern life, a balance between the places imagination and science can take us and what is realistic and healthy for the planet has to be found. 

This chapbook is an outcry, declaring that “we have an obligation.” “The springtails the grass

the red-knobbed beaks” all deserve our respect and are just as important as the humans being supported by modern tech. Change starts with the individual, and creatives like Demaree feel that in excess every day. 

As an artist, though, he recognizes his work isn’t always what’s needed. His words are just clouding “the thickening horizon,” as said on page 53. There’s an intense cycle one can go through when one realizes what this collection has and how close the goat is to the cliff’s edge. It comes with a biting guilt and desire to do something. But we can never fully stop the goat from moving forward towards certain doom. Sometimes, there isn’t an answer. Sometimes, all there is is “which stories can we carry” and acceptance. 

in the defense of the goat that continues to wander towards the certain doom of the cliff

can be purchased here:


Izzy Astuto (he/they) is a writer majoring in Creative Writing at Emerson College, with a specific interest in screenwriting. When not in Boston for college, they live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. His work has previously been published by Hearth and Coffin, Sage Cigarettes, and Renesme Literary, amongst others. He currently works as an intern for Sundress Publications, and a reader for journals such as hand picked poetry, PRISM international, and Alien Magazine. You can find more of their work on their website, at Their Instagram is izzyastuto2.0 and Twitter is adivine_tragedy. 


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