cover image Perennial


Kelly Forsythe. Coffee House, $16.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-56689-517-0

Forsythe’s intense and disquieting debut reckons with grief, senseless violence, compassion, and adolescent alienation centered on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Her speakers include the victims, the shooters (who speak directly through excerpts from their journals), a teenage girl living halfway across the country, and an adult reflecting on that teenage girl’s experience. Forsythe details her settings, such as the bedroom of one of the shooters, in a chilling and reverential manner. “You dream under/ a poster of Jenny McCarthy,” she writes. “Fingertips cut from a leather/ glove in a wastebasket.” Recalling the media hysteria of the time, Forsythe describes how the public is “made/ to fear a game in which/ dragons & dungeons/ lead to unchecked occult/ madness.” The angst of adolescence is palpable (“the/ physical boundaries/ of our bodies are cruel/ against the shell of school”), and hormones make the speaker feel “frantic, a werewolf/ in a palace of full moons.” The terror of the students in the school’s library synthesizes the mundane and the disastrous: “A boy in cargo pants, a student, seventeen, a table. A gun and a bomb. All of us have book bags with notes with hearts at the bottom.” Forsythe’s moving catalogue of a horrific event becomes a diagram of senselessness where minutiae take on a stark and eerie resonance when read beside today’s headlines. (Aug.)