13th Balloon

Mark Bibbins. Copper Canyon, $17 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-577-6
The achingly beautiful fourth collection from Bibbins (They Don’t Kill You Because They’re Hungry, They Kill You Because They’re Full) is a book-length elegy to a lover who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992. “Not lovers/ though we loved,” Bibbins writes. “Not boyfriends though we were/ friends and still/ boys in most ways when you died.” The collection’s title references a memorial to this beloved, the release of 12 balloons, crossing time to position the book as the 13th component. It’s a move emblematic of the book’s powerful ability to stitch the past to the present: “There are days when everything feels like a metaphor/ for your having died// There are days/ when nothing does.” Bibbins is attentive to time’s passing, not easily captured in traditional notions of fading: though the speaker doesn’t “have that many/ memories of you left,” the gift of The Selected Poems of Frank O’Hara that he keeps at his bedside testifies to the persistence of the beloved’s presence. The scope of this darkly humorous and always tender book paints a portrait of grief as a fellow traveler that morphs but loses none of its power over time—a power readers will be lucky to experience. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 11/14/2019
Release date: 02/11/2020
Genre: Poetry
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