Bad Daughter

Sarah Gorham. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-935536-16-1
The clear-eyed poems of Sarabande Books publisher Gorham’s fourth collection of poems charts the sometimes transcendent, sometimes terrifying, often uneasy spaces that open between mothers and daughters who then become mothers themselves. “The baby is a drug, for she makes us hungry and delirious,” opens one poem that celebrates the at-times intoxicating bliss of motherhood, while another insists on a sort of opposite: “When your daughter matures, the tree must be sacrificed./ A phoenix will alight there/ only when the queen steps down.// You must step down.” The ingenious “Scaffold for a Sonnet” makes a mighty leap between the soft, clean-your-room scolding of “Your clothes/ spread across the floor.// Good citizens—/hang them/ by their shoulders” and “a rose/ fastened/ to a lattice// arrests the sun.” More quotidian connections join a mother and her grown daughter: “There’s always the mail. And the cell phone, like a human cobweb.” Finally, it’s the daughter who leads the mother deeper into these poems, which can also inhabit a dream space that only the bond between a parent and child makes visible, where, “If you follow the dog into slumber,/ you’ll find an oval of grass” and “I hold my daughter’s hair like a dog’s lead./ ‘Now you follow me,’ she cries.” (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/24/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
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