Some people are born to write, and one of those people is Patricia Lockwood, who knew at age 6 that she would be a poet. In the final chapter of Priestdaddy, her debut memoir, Lockwood—whose poem “Rape Joke” won her a Pushcart Prize in 2015—marvels at her own forcefulness: “On the page I am strong, because that is where I put my strength.” In this brilliant and heartbreakingly funny book, the poet returns to her childhood home and offers the story of her unconventional Catholic upbringing and her larger-than-life parents.
Lockwood’s father, believe it or not, is a Catholic priest who converted to the faith after he was married. In such circumstances, there is a celibacy loophole, and Lockwood and her four siblings grew up on rectory grounds in St. Louis and Cincinnati, which Lockwood loyally refers to as “the worst cities in the Midwest.” When she became a teenager, she fell in love on the internet and ran away to marry Jason, which, miraculously, turned out to be a great decision. In adulthood, however, the couple fell on hard times and found themselves moving back in with Lockwood’s parents—her guitar-strumming, boxer-shorts-wearing, holy and emotionally aloof father and her paranoid, accommodating and lyrical mother. Surrounded by the vestiges of her childhood, Lockwood begins thinking anew about identity, place, religion, girlhood and poetry—always poetry.
This is a book that will transport the reader deep into Lockwood’s zany and appealing point of view. The sheer authority of the prose will occasionally take the reader’s breath away. To say I could not put the book down does not do it justice, nor would quotations from the dozens of pages that struck me as beautiful and unforgettable and weird. Do yourself a favor and read this memoir.