by Daniel Donaghy

100 Pages, 5.5 x 8.5

Library of Congress Control Number:  2018935431

ISBN:  978-1-63045-057-1

Publication Date:  04/16/2018

Press Release

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Cover Art:  Hope, 1886, George Frederic Watts (1817-1904)
by ©Tate, London 2018


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Somerset is an elegy for the Kensington section of Philadelphia in which the author was raised. Using a variety of styles and forms, it remembers people and cultures struggling to survive in the aftermath of deindustrialization and, now, an opioid epidemic. It is also a study in how our past continually informs our present, how we never fully leave those places in which our younger selves were formed. Somerset bears witness to racism, poverty, violent crime, and drug use, but also finds forgiveness, thankfulness, and love.


Daniel Donaghy is a courageous, risk-taking poet; he's a truth teller who draws an unflinching picture of life in a dying Philadelphia neighborhood after white flight and racial tensions escalate. He makes us feel his own humiliation and shame, a kind of shadow he carries with him even into adulthood and the suburban life he's made for himself, his wife, and children. These are beautiful, tender, painful, unforgettable poems. I love them because they make me remember what it means to be human.

—Maria Mazziotti Gillan, American Book Award Winner

Somerset begins where "dome light leaks through tinted windows/thumping at intersections." Lehigh Street, Kensington—Philly in the '80s, the El clacking and sparking overhead. Each intersection thereafter hopped up on its own electric energy: intersection of weed and wet, hooker and Strangler. The four-square intersections framing Needle Park. The fire-framed intersection of the Philly P.D. and the Africas. Intersection where a racist father rips a bike from a black kid and presents it to his son with pride. Yet dome light, streetlight, lamplight, sunlight—everywhere the light leaks through, falls on the indomitable mother, the pregnant wife, the wide-eyed wonderous daughters, friends here and in memory, glints off the windows of the Aramingo Diner, the old Starlite Ballroom, a gold crucifix around a neck. This collection is the one that Daniel Donaghy, Kenzo kid, has been writing toward his entire life, here the consummate formal craftsman of poem after candid, tough, unflinching poem. We can face it all and sometimes even face it down, they tell us; we can "rise/together, laughing, toward our evenings."

—Steve Myers, Pushcart Prize winning author of Memory's Dog, Work Site, and Last Look at Joburg

In Somerset, Daniel Donaghy has composed a page-turning, lyrical collection that provides a tragicomic reminiscence of Philadelphia. Donaghy is a master storyteller, and each poem provides a candid and at times touching snapshot of neighborhoods and families who fight and love at all cost. Poems like "What I Did While Wayne Called the Cops" and "The Background Noise I've Heard All My Life" are confessional while capturing the youthful innocence that comes with living in the inner city. Throughout the book, Donaghy brings us into the streets of Philadelphia in a way that makes the reader feel like he, too, has lived there, like he, too, has taken the trains, like he, too, has lived in the same apartments and houses that inspired these poems. Few collections can capture the essence of a city the way that Somerset does.

—José B. Gonzalez, award-winning author of the poetry collections Toys Made of Rock and When Love Was Reels