Anybody who has stepped off the usual path will recognize the power of travel in facilitating introspection, and it is this recipe—let’s call it one part adventure, three parts reflection—that poet Kai Carlson-Wee nails so masterfully in his debut collection, Rail ... Trains serve as an entry point into the speaker’s core, the grief and joy and wonder that make up the real heart of this collection. And what a heart it is ... If the speaker has learned anything by the end, perhaps it is that there is no true end. For each of us, yes, but not for the cosmic train yard of existence. That machinery will go on churning, and Carlson-Wee offers some comfort in that.
...glowing poems, which are alive with curiosity and wonderment ... his poems ring with a longing to genuinely feel his world, and, ultimately, our collective world, and he does so in these very fine and shining poems.
These lyrics, remarkable for their unpretentious, un-performative Americana, accumulate images, secondhand stories, and plainspoken observations while avoiding the rhetorical signaling so common in rural poetics.