by Sara Henning
Southern Illinois University Press, 2018
eISBN: 978-0-8093-3686-9 | Paper: 978-0-8093-3685-2
Library of Congress Classification PS3608.E564536A6 2018
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.6

Winner, High Plains Book Award Poetry, 2019

Winner, George Bogin Memorial Award, 2019

Finalist, Julie Suk Award, 2018

In these edgy poems of witness, Sara Henning’s speaker serves as both conduit and curator of the destructive legacies of alcoholism and multigenerational closeting. Considering the impact of addiction and sexual repression in the family and on its individual members, Henning explores with deft compassion the psychological ramifications of traumas across multiple generations.

With the starling as an unspoken trope for victims who later perpetuate the cycle of abuse, suffering and shame became forces dangerous enough to down airliners. The strands Henning weaves—violent relationships, the destructive effects of long-term closeting, and the pall that shame casts over entire lives—are hauntingly epiphanic. And yet these feverish lyric poems find a sharp beauty in their grieving, where Rolling Stone covers and hidden erotic photographs turn into talismans of regret and empathy. After the revelation that her deceased grandfather was a closeted homosexual “who lived two lives,” Henning considers the lasting effects of shame in regard to the silence, oppression, and erasure of sexual identity, issues that are of contemporary concern to the LGBTQIA community. Even through “the dark / earth encircling us,” Henning’s speaker wonders if there isn’t some way out of a place “where my body / is just another smoke-stung / dirge of survival,” if, in the end, love won’t be victorious.

Part eyewitness testimony, part autoethnography, this book of memory and history, constantly seeking and yearning, is full of poems “too brutal and strange to suffer / [their] way anywhere but home.”

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