What Small Sound: Poems

Red Hen. May 2023. 96p. ISBN 9781636280790. $22. POETRY
Following 2019’s multi-award finalist Bright Stain, poet/translator Bell returns with a second collection focusing largely on women and the issues they face (many poems deal with abortion and rape), while also addressing themes like gun violence and highlighting the predominantly white gunmen who commit these crimes. Bell has not completed middle school and has also had a varied employment history; these experiences work their way into her verse in snippets. Throughout, family matters and mental illness within a family are carefully considered. Readers feel carried through the lives of the children in the poems: a baby girl visible on a sonogram and a son in the hospital with a concussion—and experience their struggles as they age. In “Dusk, the Day I Drove My Child to the Partial Hospitalization Program,” Bell observes, “I do everything meticulously/ walk motherhood’s narrow ledge, and still stand/ watching light fade/ through the oaks’ snarled tracery, watching it wane as the sky goes/ from rose to pink to pale. It ends up black no matter,” demonstrating a sense of helplessness while watching children grow that readers will be able to relate to.
VERDICT Powerful and full of emotion, with themes that will engage readers from many different audiences.
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