In her latest collection, Still Dreaming, Ellie Rose McKee weaves together poetry and prose to consider themes of loss and longing, dreams, and family secrets. One story concerns a coffeehouse with a mysterious regular customer, while two different stories deal with young women in distress, one on the verge of losing her sight, another considering ending her life after suffering a traumatic event.
McKee’s poems are sparse but endearing. In one, the author wishes she could flip a switch to gain sudden inner peace, “Insomnia? No problem! Flick a switch and that’ll solve ‘em.” Her language is direct and unadorned. The result is a lack of pretension, but also, at times, a lack of depth.
The author’s prose attempts are slightly more successful. She deftly captures the chatty tone of a misanthropic teenager writing in her diary. Channeling Holden Caulfield, this narrator swoons over a classmate, “The only punk in my high school full of fake, self-obsessed goons.” While her protagonists are often imperiled, McKee imbues their stories with hope, making something uplifting out of terrible circumstances. This often comes in the form of another person’s intervention. When things are at their worst, the author suggests, we have the power to lift each other up. McKee’s style may not be particularly elevated, there is a sweetness to its simplicity.