Strings Attached: Poems by Diane DeCillis, Wayne State University Press

In Strings Attached, poet Diane DeCillis takes inspiration from the story of the elephant calf with a thin rope tied to its leg. Even when it grows into a massive animal, the elephant thinks the same string still restrains it and never attempts to break free. This powerful, funny, and sometimes self-deprecating collection considers all the ways that strings bind us in relationships and explores their constant tightening and loosening. Although we may never sever the strings attached to our wounds, DeCillis shows that when given enough slack we can create the illusion of having been set free.


The poems consider tension in a variety of relationships. The short string of an American girl raised in Detroit by a Lebanese grandmother whose culture values boys over girls. The attachment to a strong mother who exemplifies feminism but who is mostly absent in order to support the family. The cosmopolitan father who abandons but captivates, and long strings of a secret life that teach you to be distant. DeCillis’s verse reflects an insistent search for identity and the happy discovery that outsider status can be a good thing, a kind of earned badge that provides new ways of seeing. All poetry readers will relate to the personal and perceptive verse of this debut collection.

Reviews & Press

“ Diane DeCillis writes savory poems that make us homesick in multiple ways—for the mysterious people we are connected to, for rooms we stayed in too briefly, for moments which did or didn’t quite click, for art and dreaming, and for plates on the table. A reader feels more ‘anchored to the soil of home’ and linked to all time—visionary past; forward horizon. These wonderful poems have their own needles and threads built right into them, and the warmth of deepest care.”

— Naomi Shihab Nye

“Diane DeCillis is the ‘Belle of the String Theory Ball,’ rooted in Detroit, passionate about her Lebanese grandmother, good food, art, and dreams. These warm, philosophical poems explore a cultural and emotional terrain similar to the work of Naomi Shihab Nye. DeCillis ponders Twinkies, absinthe, agoraphobia, the color yellow, insomnia, Cezanne, physics, croissants, and Alfred Hitchcock, all the while unraveling the ball of string that comprises our mortal attachments so she can get to what’s real—the sacred nature of love, life, the universe.”

— Richard Peabody

“To say there’s a seedy elegance to these sparkly, crystalline poems is to say they contain everything from broken glass to diamonds; from fleabag motels, cheap pizza, and junkies to limos, tuxes, Chopin, and Debussy. In fact, Diane DeCillis’s grasp of the world’s gritty beauty means there isn’t a whole lot that isn’t in these poems (there’s even a recipe for baklava).”

— David Kirby

Strings Attached is just such a gem. . . Decillis eases you into poetic forms with such grace that you want to read the pantoum on page 40, for example, over and over, delighting in her twists and turns and what she is teaching so painlessly – and probably without even intending to educate.

– Pamela Grath