This collection will destroy you. It is such a finely wrought, spot-on exploration of grief–grief over the death of children, two of them, which is always unimaginable, if you’ve ever loved a child. In a steady sequence of brief, lyric poems, Catherine Barnett reifies this grief through objects, dreams, tableaus.
The tableau is actually such an essential part of this book, now that I think of it. There are many stilled images that echo the loss of the girls. The most enduring are the white ribbons tied to a fence at the school, the girls’ rooms unchanged, their clothes.
The smart move is that the tragedy does not occur in the book, making these poems a kind of V-shape, like a boat wake, slowly widening out, just as the experience and understanding of grief begins with a sharp stab and dulls outward back into the world, where it comes mixed with the work of living.
This is a great example of narrative sequence, where each poem is a lyric component of a larger narrative, particularly one that moves emotionally rather than with causality.