Join the conversation
Subscribe to Our Emails
Boston Review is a public space for the discussion of ideas and culture. Sign up for our newsletters and don’t miss a thing.
Jun 4, 2015
1 Min read time
W.W. Norton, $25.95 (cloth)
How do you compose yourself if your mother is dying, dead? This question moves Alice Fulton’s Barely Composed doubly, as Fulton probes both her biological mother’s death and Mother Earth’s destruction around us, “the inmates of this late-stage civilization.” This double loss is reinforced in the opening unrhymed tercet of “Wow Moment”: “From the guts of the house, I hear my mother crying / for her mother.” In “Still World Nocturne” the “far cry” returns—“our mother crying Mother!”—but in that broken villanelle’s final line, the poetic voice, bereft and in silence, faces “a world unhere, unyours.” This absence is amplified in the next poem’s opening: “Then emptiness grew more empty” and “I fingered it like an incision, fondled it / like a rosary of thorns.” Tracking loss across life and language, Fulton’s question becomes: How do you compose yourself without “words to conjure with”? A mother tongue is as necessary an instrument as “the four-chambered / bilge pump,” “periscope,” and “control // moment gyroscope” Fulton finds herself “trusting”—and as imperfect. Only “anguish / is the universal language,” we learn in “Claustrophilia,” thirty whooshing lines of “romance as usual, us times us.” The poem works as a double sonnet with an extra couplet for excess, the perfect pairing for the apocalypse. What do we learn in the final turn? That love, “the retaliation of light,” “is so profligate, you know, / so rich with rush.”
...we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we’ve organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review’s responsibility to public reason is sure. That’s why you’ll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.
June 04, 2015
1 Min read time
Vital reading on politics, literature, and more in your inbox
Readers Also Liked
Printing Note: For best printing results try turning on any options your web browser's print dialog makes available for printing backgrounds and background graphics.