by L. I. Henley
Winner of the 2017 Perugia Press Prize
In L. I. Henley’s Starshine Road, a collection set in the isolated, shifting Mojave Desert terrain of Joshua Tree, California, we are witness to the underside of a rural life near the world’s largest Marine Corps base juxtaposed with hundreds of miles of national park. Traversing a land that could not be more real, but which often feels like dreamscape, these poems explore the dangers and treasures of one’s birthplace: a dog and his homeless master, an infamous Amboy creosote, a junk pile, flawed cops, grieving mothers, and their wild, muscled, unpredictable boys. The junkyard appearing in several poems becomes a microcosm for the poet’s world – glittering, mysterious, and scrappy, something to be drawn to despite its raggedness. Part spirit quest, part inventory of what is loved and irrevocably lost to the elements, Henley evokes the exacting gaze of the desert in this stellar collection.