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Rachel Rose, Marry & Burn
Madeira Park, BC: Harbour House Publishing, 2015.

Many of you have likely heard of Cheryl Strayed, author of the hugely successful breakout memoir Wild. What you may not know is that she was also Sugar behind the column Dear Sugar on The Rumpus, and is also currently one of the Sugars on the podcast Dear Sugar, which offers advice and “radical empathy” to the “lost, lonely, and heartsick.” The Sugars often turn to writers to help address the problems letter writers bring forward, like figuring out whether to stay or to go, the boredom of motherhood, addictions, discussing faith and politics with family members, and dealing with infidelity. Rachel Rose’s 2015 collection Marry & Burn, which won the 2016 Pushcart prize, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Pat Lowther Memorial Award, would be just such a book to turn to.

It is difficult to distill a book as textured as Marry & Burn down without stealing some of its honey, but, broadly, the book spins around things like the death of love and of beings, marriage, beehives, homes, beloveds, friends. And even though these deaths and other sorrows are met with gravity, with heartbreak, and with deep and familiar loneliness, they’re also met with play and with recognition of the absurdity of our small ceremonies and way of being in the world. The collection’s first poem, “Anthropology,” lays the absurdity of the everyday right on the table: “our roof was corrugated tin, thunder when it rained. The women’s priests injected botulism into their foreheads. A man had as many wives as he could carry.” In “The Flight,” seatmates are betrothed to one another, toilet paper must be purchased, fuel charges paid by “the obese / and atheists,” and the captain is “fully armed / and licensed to perform weddings / divorces, circumcisions / and dental extractions.”

Just as it takes a certain kind of courage to commit the private details of infidelity and heartbreak to the page (“The End of Love,” “Cleave,” “The Affair”), so too does it take courage to play with form as Rose does throughout. From the couplets in the title poem to the sestina/sonnet of “Corona for Charlotte,” Rose uses these conventions with a light and deft touch that keeps rhythm at the forefront – crows wings just dipping down before lifting off again.

Mostly, as a “lost, lonely, and heartsick” fellow traveler on this planet, I read this collection with gratitude, for by documenting life with such humanness, for using the “I” with such cheekiness, honesty, and aplomb, Rose welcomes the reader to a table of feasts. It’s a book well and truly done.

 

Brenda Liefso’s second book of poetry, Barren the Fury, was published by Pedlar Press in 2015. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her family.

 

IN TIMES OF NEED, TURN TO ARC POETRY!

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