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.
Tip them on Venmo (@AmiJS) or PayPal (@AmiJSanghvi).
TW/CW: Sexual Assault, Trauma, Rape, Self-Harm
Review written by Dominic Pierre
When I first held ManEater by Jean Marie Bub, I couldn’t help but trace over every line, meditate over the narrative, and felt destroyed but rebuilt from start to finish. In the beginning, she pulls open the curtain and reveals a disclaimer titled: “I have some explaining to do before you read this,” and underneath one of the section breaks, she writes,
“MANEATER is about shedding that person. Shedding the shame. The guilt. Letting go of the blame I falsely placed upon myself, and realizing that in order to move on, I must become the right kind of monster. The kind that confronts the demon before it crosses threshold.”
Composed of artwork, photography, and poetry, ManEater details Jean’s personal experience with sexual assault, rape, traumas, self-love, self-harm, and pain; while also bringing attention to the reality that it’s a shared experience of womanhood.
One of the many magnifying images throughout ManEater comes from “More Real Headlines.” In this gut-wrenching picture, there are ten cutouts of news headlines detailing 10-atrocities.
1) “Men are killing thousands of women a year for saying no.”
2) “NYC Woman decapitated by estranged husband, who also slit 5-year old daughter’s throat and hanged himself–on day she planned to file for order of protection.”
3) “In small Alaska city, Native women say police ignored rapes.”
4) “Harlem mom fatally shot after confronting man who groped her on street.”
5) “50,000 women around the world were killed by someone they knew in 2017—and women in the US are at risk.”
As the book progresses, I remain shocked, though not surprised. The swelling of atrocity in the hands and brains of men is disgusting and alarming. The way society continues to ignore and perpetuate this problem is abhorrent and alarming. But, more than all else, it all contributes to and continues the cycle of abuse.
Page 74 contains a piece titled, For The Mother’s That Protect Their Rapist Sons, and is followed by “If you ignore abuse, you enable abuse."
In the pages that follow, Jean includes two pictures. One of a text message chain where the abuser’s cousin communicated they “would like to see proof of what you are saying,” and the other of a screenshot of a document in the Notes app where Jean writes at the end, “But how much of that is my fault."
Another one of my favorite moments throughout ManEater was the inclusion of pages where Jean embraces the reader after establishing a safe space. For example, at the start of Confronting the Monster, a blank page reads: “Name them here____,” and at the end of the chapter, she puts, “Use the space to vent below” at the top of the page; providing space for the reader’s gentle thoughts.
Jean begins to heal by way of vulnerability and reminds readers (as well as herself), “We must always return to our sisters in order to heal ourselves.” in the poem titled, After the Great Nia Mora (who is a Harlem based writer, big love coach, and healer).
Lesson #222 reads: “Do not rush to healing without first completely feeling all seasons of pain,”
And it serves as a beautiful affirmation as we all dive deep into our exploration into self-love and community at our most vulnerable moments. Jean includes a list of helpful resources for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Crisis Text Line.
The emotion Jean evoked throughout this magnificent collection stripped me bare and left me in an incredibly meditative state. I strongly suggest this book to everyone, especially men who could benefit significantly from reflecting deeply about women’s daily lives and honestly ask themselves how they can become better men and understand someone in their life who has similar experiences.
Jean-Marie Bub did an incredibly fantastic job fully confronting the monster and slaying it; while simultaneously urging all readers to do the same. ManEater is about normalizing the discussions by telling your own story!
Dominic Pierre (He/Him) is a writer and editor based in New York City. His work has appeared in Near Window Magazine, CP Quarterly, the winnow, Dreams Walking Magazine, and Moonchild Magazine.
Tip him on cashapp: $Unclepierree
TW/CW: addiction, mental illness, trauma
Review written by Rachael Crosbie
Are you hoping to relive the late 90s/early 2000s with an autumn breeze, the smell of Scholastic Book Fair catalogues, VHS tapes, AOL Messenger chat logs, Smashmouth's "All Star", and so much more? Then, these memories will be re-examined by the "there after" conceived youth and teenage years, by the landscape of your suburban gothic hometown that you couldn't wait to run from, even if that meant you end up in a new place that's equally suburban gothic. Or maybe you managed to escape to the city, but it doesn't matter because you will always dream in gothic suburbia.
Besides nostalgia, Wolf Girls Vs. Horse Girls by Catherine Weiss offers vulnerability in other ways, namely "desire, fatness, addiction, queerness, mental illness, family, [and] trauma" (Game Over Books). This full-length poetry collection examines two parts of an individual's life: girlhood and what comes after. The poems are uniquely written in a modern day confessional style, making it a must-read for those new to poetry and those who are seasoned readers. After all, Andrew McNeil Publishing could only wish they found this book before Game Over Books because Weiss manages to do exactly what the majority of McNeil's catalogue could only dream of: retelling hard truths and trauma through a poetic style that is both accessible and daring.
The most memorable and powerful poems are: "why i don't eat fruit", "fervor", "driving around my hometown", "the only time i'm not in love is when we play settlers of catan", "where i went, october 2012", "confinement", and "recovery instructions for people who never finish what they start". Every poem commands language and form in a way that demands the reader's full attention.
"why i don't eat fruit" is the opening poem of the entire book. It alludes to childhood trauma, specifically potential molestation, by likening the odd texture of fruit to skin and dissociation of living in that skin: "so it's a texture thing then / i will probably say probably / but i will be thinking of / the texture of porcelain / the texture of wet skin / the texture of all the times i have vanished". This poem contextualizes quite a few of the recurring themes in the chapbook, especially those that consider the body as a state of being and a state of setting (never settling).
Other poems that were listed dive into forms that feel like they were designed specifically for those poems, especially with how "fervor" is a golden shovel of "All Star" by Smash Mouth, "the only time i'm not in love is when we play settlers of catan" and "confinement" are contrapuntals, and "recovery instructions for people who never finish what they start" is a found poem constructed of first steps from random WikiHow articles.
Above all, this book handles distressing and vulnerable themes with the utmost care and understanding. Your inner child will heal, too, and feel heard when you read this book.
Rachael Crosbie (they/them) is writing poems about their cat, Peanut. Rachael has four poetry chapbooks: Trick Mirror or Your Computer Screen, self-portrait as poems about bad poetry, swerve, and MIXTAPES. Their fifth poetry chapbook, Peanut [the cat] auditions as Courage […from Courage the Cowardly Dog], is forthcoming late summer 2022. You can find them on Twitter @rachaelapoet posting about squishmallows, She-Ra and The Princesses of Power, and Courage the Cowardly Dog.
Tip them on Venmo: @Rachael-Crosbie-7