TW/CW: trauma, loss, grief, death
A Review of Something Kindred, by Nicole Tallman
By Ami/@HotWraithBones (April/May 2022)
“The death of a mother is the first sorrow wept without her.”
Something Kindred is a rawness devoid of capitalistic intention. Rather, it stands unapologetically relentless, secure in its entirety as a capsule of life, death, space, time, immortalization, tribute, and most overarching of all, the elusive, perpetual, ever-changing nature of grief.
A vital study not on grief alone, but more specifically on the agonizingly mortal experience of grieving the mother lost to death, Nicole Tallman’s Something Kindred delves fearlessly into the complex, intangible manifestation of grief as sentiment, entity, burden, marvel, reality, and most importantly, inevitability. This is a book about mothers, especially those who have already departed. Simultaneously, this is a book for the children of mothers who have already departed—the children who are left grieving them “not… in a rushed sense, but in a timeless sense” (as Tallman so eloquently puts it to her readers).
Tallman continues, “This is a chapbook of poems and prose for the grieving—not grieving in a rushed sense, but in a timeless sense. Because there is no real timeline that I’ve experienced. Grief is a messy, personal process.”
As Jack B. Bedell, the 2017-2019 Poet Laureate of Louisiana, and author of Color All Maps New, writes in a foreword, grief is “[s]ometimes complicated as memory… blunt as a single note from a song.” Further, Bedell adds how Tallman’s Something Kindred is “Fluid. Varied. Strong. Courageous… [and u]ltimately … a testament to the living, not the dying.”
One of the most harrowing and magnificent things about grief is how there is no one, perfect, even universal formula for writing about it. Rather, it is an experience unique to each mourning individual. Of course, there is a certain amount of common ground most of us seem to embrace. For example, the facts that:
1) eventual loss is rooted in absolute certainty;
2) life, as a concept, is elusive (and intentionally designed as such); and finally,
3) death is very much like life in that way, but abandons temporality for permanence instead.
And perhaps that’s what makes death so incredibly difficult to digest—its absolute and necessary permanence in a world where everything else is always changing, provisional, and perpetually ending. Even the present is terrible, and fleeting—claimed by the past in an instant, hence even less time than it takes to administer the swiftest blink of an eye. Like Time, Death is sublime—a reality indicative of something overwhelmingly larger than not only us, but also existence as we know it. It’s this intangible thing we cannot physically touch, yet touches each and every one of us. Death takes all we know, and propels it into something unknown—unobtainable to us until we ourselves have already departed.
Everything about Death is something kindred — and concurrently, not.
Regarding grief as an ever-varying formula unique to each individual, Something Kindred places Tallman in a canon of contemporary authors in exploration of grief in the wake of familial demise—all of which differ in their respective systems and methodologies, yet significantly contribute to our modern-day archive of collective knowledge, musings, and perspectives on the topic. As a result, Tallman’s peers include Prageeta Sharma (Grief Sequence), Joy Harjo (An American Sunrise), Fred Moten (B Jenkins), Roland Barthes (Camera Lucida), and of course, Alice Notley (Disobedience, etc.) —all authors whose work is deeply innovative. Now, upon its recent release, the same can be said for Tallman’s Something Kindred.
The variety of poems and styles Tallman applies here—spread across multiple pages, heavily utilizing the white space, and often without any justification or title provided—is extremely indicative of grief (at least as I’ve experienced it). Whether the titles included were that of individual pieces, stretched across several pages, or else sections of pieces that chose to speak for themselves as excerpts from time and space as Tallman perceives/perceived and experiences/experienced them, were not clarified. And truthfully, that made each body of text far more realistic in the context of trauma, loss, death, and grief both separately (by section), and in the scope of the broader book (as a whole).
There was no unnatural bending by Tallman present anywhere from start to finish, nor was there that needless obligation on her part to squeeze the words into any customary, traditional, and/or industrial constraints. She does not serve the industry or pay heed to its grating mandates—nor does she really seem to want to. Rather, Tallman is answerable only to the literary arts, grief, and the lingering, loving memory of her dearly departed mother.
Something Kindred is extraordinary. Moreover, it, like Tallman’s presence throughout its pages, is timeless.
Ami (they/them) is a HOT ALIEN WRAITH BABE, MySpace himbo, proud feline parent, and the co-founder of Gutslut Press. They have a Leo sun and rising; further, they are the Chaos. Their vibe can be both best and worst described as "hyperpop deathcore meets Gossip Girl meets John Milton meets Jon Moxley meets Yami Bakura." In conclusion, HOT ALIEN WRAITH BABE is glampunk, ethereal, and the semi-corporeal embodiment of all things fabulous.
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