Traced throughout The Second O of Sorrow are Dougherty’s devastating reflections on his wife’s illness. Alternating between beautiful odes to love and grim observations on what it means to be fighting for life in this country, these poems are their own sort of metaphor for the Rust Belt ... In the midst of his grief and anxiety, Dougherty puts forward expressions of startling beauty ... Work and pool hall laughter, love and the horror of death and loss. Dougherty lays it all out in this collection, and he does so on the tarnished and diveted table of Ohio.
The poems are replete with rundown towns, futures, people and relationships, and yet it’s an awe-inspiring collection that shows how a skilled hand can find light in the darkest things ... There’s a sense of earned grace to the language of these poems. Sometimes he pushes the boundaries with ornate statements ... Yet he’s never talking beyond the reader. In every moment where plain speech hits a transcendent pitch, the poetry makes room for the reader to walk alongside. It’s both a humble and confident ... beautiful language.
As I read these poems I thought of Peter Handke’s brilliant, tortured, autobiographical novella, A Sorrow Beyond Dreams ... The Second O in Sorrow, cannot be defined by one subject or variations on themes of pain, but branches out into other directions readers of Dougherty’s considerable body of work will recognize. There is a long poem of regret and love in the relationship of a man with his son and the spaces between them that are larger than a generation. There is Sean at a karaoke night in a bar ... He defines poetry in a unique way that is both intimate and informative, visceral and real ... What more could you possibly want from a writer?