Code

Charlotte Pence. Black Lawrence, $15.95 trade paper (102p) ISBN 978-1-62557-827-3
The grief-filled, moving second book from Pence (Many Small Fires) opens with poems on family juxtaposed against violence. Pence has an eye for dramatic detail—of a famous Empire State Building jumper, she writes: “What’s curious, though,/ isn’t the limousine hood that crumpled around her like a black satin pillow...// but on that day,/ she, like the rest of us, dressed for the cold.” The book’s second section addresses the death of Shira Shaiman, a friend who died of cancer. In a prose introduction, Pence recalls that Shaiman’s forgotten MFA manuscript fell out of a box of winter clothes, summoning memories of their friendship (five of Shaiman’s poems are included here). These poems are followed by a narrative sequence about young parents as the mother falls ill with a degenerative disease, and in which Pence presents the genetic code (in a combination of letters) for a number of genetic disorders, including cystic fibrosis and color blindness. A family’s trip to see cave paintings in Spain leads to reflections on gene-editing technology. Pence offers readers a thoughtful look at questions of ethics, hope, and science, and a memorable journey through pain and survival. (July)
Reviewed on : 06/10/2020
Release date: 07/01/2020
Genre: Poetry
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