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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TW/CW: grief, loss, marginalized identity
Review written by Vaishnavi
Beast At Every Threshold implores you to take a dip in the fragility of identity. It leads you to the exploration of belongingness and the intimacy of personal histories.
This, for me, was one of those few collections of poetry that sat just right at the juncture of poetic beauty and depth. The collection holds you down as it bathes you in buckets after buckets of grief, longing, and generational trauma. The poems tread across the themes of queerness, racial oppression, and diaspora, among others. "Threshold" is used as a nuanced metaphor for marginalised identities, personal capacity, boundaries, and even existing around the edges of acceptance as immigrants. The book speaks to you from the collective experiences of the communities that find themselves “boxed” and “othered”.
I found Natalie Wee’s voice to be familiar. The poems had an uncanny resemblance. They reminded me of how remaining at the intersection of many identities subjected me to similar experiences. The poems Wee wrote were hers, but the experiences told through them were ours.
Wee has experimented with the form and structure of poetry and infused her poems with splendid metaphors. The book begins with ‘In Defense of My Roommate’s Dog’, a hard-hitting and almost tenacious onset that walked me through the relationship of the poet with love and longing.
With lines like “I don’t know if I’m real when I’m not being touched”, and “We imagine a funeral each time we peel back fresh need: wait for me, it’s cold, I’m scared,” the poem paves the way for the progression of the book into its kaleidoscopic navigation of loss.
Poems like “Can You Speak English?” and Self-Portrait As Pop Culture Reference told the tale of identity and the indulgent presence of racism and othering that so many from the diaspora are still subjected to.
“Another urban legend: animals will abandon offspring touched by human beings. This, too, has been disproven / by wildlife experts, although / it is easy to believe our hands are capable of so much hurt.”
“I want these facts to mean something to each other / the way a room is just a room until love or its inverse”
And you cannot help but laud her as she chooses her words, pirouettes across grief, navigates loss and identity, and delivers you with poems that will haunt your heart for days.
‘Phoning Home To Tell My Grandmother I Survived A Hate Crime’ made me weep as Wee said “the body is the sound / hurt makes / that we were born / a prelude to cleave”. While Asami Watches Korra In The Rearview filled me with nostalgia and a fuzzy feeling in my stomach. Wee wrote “Praise the miracle of glass that allowed me to touch you before I ever touched you,” and I felt like the tip of the pen that just finished a love letter.
‘Sayang,’ ‘Self-Portrait As Beast Index,’ ‘When I Say I Want To Learn Your Mother’s Recipe, I mean,’ etc. play with the structure of poetry and add freshness to the book. Although the collection ended with ‘I Am My Dreaming Self Getting Better At This,’ a spectacular and fulfilling end, I found myself going back to ‘When My Grandmother Begins To Forget’ which somehow earned the top spot in my favourites from the book. With lines like: “This sentence begins where her memory ends: my grandmother / at dusk, calf-deep in water,” and “What she knows of loyalty is the unchanging horizon. / Of keeping something safe in the throat without breathing.” the poem brings out an intimate emotion of gentle grief in my heart, the softest ache of dissipation.
Vaishnavi (she/her) is a college student from New Delhi, India. She loves poetry, coding, writing, and (often unnecessarily) organising things into systems of productivity. You can follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @vaishandart.
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