Book Review: Everyone Who Is Dead by David Welch
David Welch is the author of Everyone Who Is Dead (Spork Press, 2018) and a chapbook, It Is Such a Good Thing to Be In Love with You (The Laurel Review/Midwest Chapbook Series, 2015). He is the recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of America, and the Sewanee Writers' Conference. Welch lives in Chicago and teaches at DePaul University where he is Assistant Director of Publishing & Outreach.
A Review of David Welch's Everyone Who Is Dead
Everyone Who Is Dead lures the reader down the rabbit hole, and when they resurface on the other end, they are surrounded by a flourishing Earth and well-dressed animals. Through the catalyst of nature and a varying cast of woodland creatures, David Welch paints strange, picturesque scenes that the reader can get lost in. Natural beauty is shown with images like “the orchid, its mouth a blushed pear, its green legs / thrown over the ground where the audience sifted their hands together,” which is complimented by the interactions of “the boy” and “the audience,” the recurring characters that are seen throughout Welch’s collection.
The relationship of these two characters often forge a philosophical element, as the ever-questioning audience is constantly examining “the boy.” In the poem, “Everyone Who Is Dead,” “the audience” acts as an observer that is seeking answers out of “the boy’s” actions:
The audience saw the boy in the distance
The interactions of “the boy” and “the audience” create a dynamism that seems as though Welch is scraping at the fourth wall, using “the audience” as an inclusion of the reader as they seem to be watching a performance act out on a stage of flora, fauna, and other wildlife. In “Lives of the Rabbits,” nature is molded into a breathing organism that includes all elements living as one:
must we accept also the green
The bird in these lines illustrates another limb of the tree and, throughout the poem, the reader is met with a vivid world of life and death. The elegance of nature that is sculpted throughout the poetry is contrasted by the presence of violence and death that integrates seamlessly into the lines to add to the poignancy of the world. In “As If at Its End,” this integration is created with subtlety:
like a boy left to drift alone toward the sea
The mixing, and juxtaposition, of unexpected images like the “prisms of jellyfish” and the sinister, yet still mystical, images of “blood slowing in the fog” converge together on the page creating a profoundness to Welch’s poetry. The clever blending of light and dark illustrations parallel the complex settings and characters within the collection.
Everyone Who Is Dead is a striking read that snags the reader and guides them on a journey through bustling forests, deep seas, and the kaleidoscope of emotions that all these sublime elements generate. It is a prismatic and substantive read with a sophisticated narrative that calls for the reader to walk its trails over and over again.