cover image Complicated Grief

Complicated Grief

Laura Mullen. Solid Objects (SPD, dist.), $18 trade paper (120p) ISBN 978-0-9844142-8-4

In her eighth poetry collection, which nudges the edge of memoir, Mullen (Enduring Freedom: A Little Book of Mechanical Brides) excavates the past in the context of exploring the intricate relationships among experience, memory, and expression. For Mullen, “memory makes us each our own guest/(g)host,” and, in focusing on narratives that resist psychological resolution, she deploys an array of literary techniques to reveal the myriad troubled ways we inhabit our selves. What more can be said of a relationship’s dissolution when one approaches it again and again through fragmentary tellings, each with a different framework? How might a grown Red Riding Hood make sense of that trying episode of her youth? What coheres when one revisits a childhood trauma after decades, trying for the first time to reconstruct the story in full? The very acts of remembering, thinking, and writing are continually brought to the surface as active shapers of the past. A clever found poem collects synopses of film and TV adaptations of Jane Eyre, and in presenting it, Mullen playfully interrogates the notion that histories contain empirical events behind or beneath each act of telling. Mullen’s poems arise from the tension between iterations of “Once upon a time. To tell the truth,” and what remains “Completely unutterable/ Nevertheless.” (Nov.)