Darren C. Demaree’s Two Towns Over is an introspective illustration of drug culture in the American Midwest. Erratically, the poet exposes his reader to literal, sentimental and introspective illustrations of a lifestyle and environment that are totally controlled by hedonism and psychoactive substances.

While much of the imagery is grotesque and enticing to the senses, monotony is one of the most notable characteristics throughout Two Towns Over. It often feels as if Demaree communicates the same sentiment better in a couple of short stanzas than he does in multiple poems. Filled with structural and linguistic experimentation that is often hit or miss, various pieces, such as a majority of the poems with the title “Sweet Wolf”, feel gimmicky or uninspired. This monotony offers a literary simulation of the futility and frustration the nameless residents of the work’s Ohio townships are constantly battling.

Demaree’s attention to detail is often one of the most powerful devices he employs. When describing a minute visual or kinesthetic experience, he manages to illustrate an entire scene in a clear and comprehensive way that demonstrates a strong knowledge of both his craft and subject matter. It is for this reason that the shorter pieces, such as “Jelloway, Ohio” and “I Believe in the End of Forgiveness”, shine through in the collection by revealing so much experience through as few words as possible.

The contemplation of the metaphysical that shows up in the collection’s latter half is a welcome surprise. Everything from “Utica, Ohio” to “Ode to the Corner of the Drug House Down the Gravel Road off the Two Lane Highway” eschews the concrete writing Demaree offered earlier in favor of psychological introspection. Acknowledging drugs as the medium through which this theoretical exploration takes place, Demaree opens a platform for emotion and instinct to coalesce into a deeply immersive experience that draws the reader in until the final lines of the last poem.

Two Towns Over depicts a graphic and unrelenting world inhabited by a merciless community while also exploring the conflicts experienced by an individual unsatisfied with the confines of their conscious mind. Anyone looking for work that is unafraid to enter some of the darkest places humanity is capable of manufacturing will find asylum in Demaree’s verse.


By Colin Boyd, book review intern


The Furious Gazelle received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review