Call Me When You Want to Talk About the Tombstones

Cynthia Marie Hoffman. Persea, $15.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-0-89255-489-8
Hoffman (Paper Doll Fetus) turns a fragmented lens on her family’s past in her third collection, a hybrid of poetry, memoir, and genealogical research. The work takes its title from a line in an email the poet received from her mother, and its strange juxtaposition of casual talk about tombstones hints at the book’s curious structure and sentiment. “We come from a family whose bodies are in the ground in the right spot, under the stones,” Hoffman writes. These sprawling, collagic prose poems pull language from old letters, articles, and notes from both Hoffman and her mother. Old family portraits, facsimiles of handwritten journals, newspaper clippings, and other ephemera are interspersed throughout. Hoffman describes the detritus: “This newspaper article, clipped with a rushed hand. This photograph brittle as a crumb.” Lines shift between times and spaces, as well as between first-person and journalistic perspectives. In one particularly representative passage, the text of an article cuts off mid-sentence and swerves into Hoffman’s own thoughts: “The Smith boy was painfully where is the rest of the article?” Amid an artful probing of memory, Hoffman poses a profound question to her readers: “What is the exact volume of scrap and residue we must leave behind?” (July)
Reviewed on: 06/18/2018
Release date: 07/03/2018
Genre: Fiction
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