Anaphora: An Elegy

Alice James. Oct. 2018. 100p. ISBN 9781938584961. pap. $15.95. POETRY
Raised on the Flathead Indian Reservation, where his stepfather and brothers are tribal members, and a firefighter for ten years, Goodan here memorializes his cousin Jimmy, never referenced by family or friends after he hanged himself. And that flat summation says absolutely nothing about the heart-searing intensity of this distinctive book. Instead of offering a straightforward account, Goodan gives punch-in-the-gut snapshots of both his and Jimmy's pain, repeating and compacting words and phrases in a dense and fractured syntax: "Sway November watertower bright/ where Rosabelle believed/ fuck Joe Grady fuck your dog/ dead as the Houdini you rode in on." The poet later cries, "someone cut my cousin down please/ goodbye goodbye cut him the fuck down" and acknowledges the pain of "packing Jimmy/ all these twenty years." Finally, when he says, "When Jimmy told people/ he could fly nobody came/ so when he let loose/ the rope he was alone," we get the sense of a wound-up dreamer looking for escape, maybe, but also something better.
VERDICT Tough emotionally and stylistically but a remarkable read.
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