Cancer Angel

Beth Murray. Belladonna (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (90p) ISBN 978-0-9885399-4-5
In this posthumous release, Murray (The Island) renders the pains of cancer treatment in a series of meditative poems that read as a dramatic arc from the first chemo injection to radical mastectomy. Divided into four sections—"Vile," "Beacon," "Cancer Angel," and "Shoots"—the collection works as an indictment of patriarchal medicine and Western medical care, with Murray (1967–2014) exploring the holistic comforts that her doctors dismiss: "Father Medicine believes he's only medicine, will not look at Mother Medicine,/ they divorced a long time ago/ so I must be my own Mother in medicine." Those doctors sign off on an expensive chemotherapy procedure, which Murray calls the "precious $15,000 signature." She presses forward, finding images that forge a sense of time and elaborate on the symptoms and side effects of each treatment. The poem "Moon" reminds readers how the waxing and waning of the moon mimics the swelling and deterioration around a silicone implant: "denser/ moon in which I reflected for others,/ so much work this digesting and mirroring." The poems possess a welcoming, conversational tone that allows them to flow as one nearly continuous voice. Murray's thoughtful and aware reflections echo points Audre Lorde made in The Cancer Journals and further the conversation about terminal illness. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 07/04/2016
Release date: 00/00/0000
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