In this enticingly readable collection, Sharon Cumberland (The Arithmetic of Mourning) offers readers the chance to see through another's eyes with startling clarity, with poetry stripped of pretense and obscure imagery. As "Ars Poetica," one of the first poems in the book, posits, if poetry can allow the reader to share a moment of someone else's life, it should not be expected to further justify its existence with irony or morals.
Cumberland's style and wit at times evoke Edna St. Vincent Millay, especially when describing a beach visit. She deftly dissects common sights and imbues them with new meaning, changing children riding in shopping carts into aliens native to the consumerist climate of the grocery store. Elsewhere, she describes a dream of encountering a wardrobe full of the clothes her mother wore before age took her sanity, a dream that is able to reunite her through sensory memory with a time when her mother was the all-powerful center of her childhood universe. While much of her subject matter is personal, Cumberland also invokes the lives of historic figures like Jesus Christ, reimagining the religious icon as a flesh-and-blood person with human emotions and an enormous destiny.
Several poems describe Cumberland's grief over losing her five-year-old nephew to cancer. While the depth of her pain is piercing, the fact that she can so clearly express such a deep and broad loss in so few words is testament to her great talent. This collection will speak movingly to any reader, not just poetry enthusiasts.
***This review originally appeared in Shelf Awareness Readers Edition. Sign up for this free and awesome newsletter at http://www.shelf-awareness.com for the latest news and reviews! This review refers to an ARC provided by Shelf Awareness.***