With exacting clarity, Markell often intermingles painful themes, such as childhood violence at the hands of a physically abusive parent, with the lilting splendor of nature: “startles an osprey from its perch, / distracting the girl’s mother, / hand raised, ready to hit.” Domesticity and maternal strife are featured as well, as a discordant mixture between comfort and fear, as in the wrenching “Superpower,” in which she writes, “My mother slapped my face / while she stood over the kitchen sink / doing dishes.”
On occasion, Markell’s poetry can edge toward ambiguity, which may make it a challenge for some readers to apprehend the collection’s organizational logic, though the consistent strength of her linework is a powerful throughline. Simply put, a reader can flip through the pages at random and stumble upon any number of charming (“My Mother Tells Me my Father was no Good in Bed” opens with “Who really wants to know / how they got made?”) or haunting poems, pinning down with quiet precision feelings and insights. While Markell never shies away from the difficulties of life, she reminds us that in partnership with the ugliness there is always splendor–and that “Hope rests on the roof.”
Takeaway: These strikingly original poems pin down everyday hope and despair with exacting precision and power.
Great for fans of: Gail Mazur, Sandra Storey.
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