cover image The Grief We’re Given

The Grief We’re Given

William Bortz. Central Avenue, $16.99 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-77168-219-0

The innovative debut from Bortz considers the relationship between anxiety and solitude, the body and grief. While unified by shared thematic concerns, these poems traverse a wide range of forms, including lyric fragments, elegies, litanies, and erasures. Bortz’s strength is his fearless experimentation, which allows for a series of surprising formal shifts, illustrated by his definition of “Language—/ an unwrinkling of plagues.” Several poems are gracefully aphoristic, as in “Hope, Breaking, Knowing,” which remarks that “a wish is the bone, fractured/ asking to be mended/ hope is the bone/ never learning/ it can be broken.” Elsewhere, the speaker defines freedom as “choosing where to bury/ beneath what grass/ facing which cardinal direction/ toward which home/ recognizing the body/ having the body/ having the body to bury.” This sort of careful amplification is common throughout the collection, which, though occasionally veering into abstraction, never loses sight of its quiet cataloging of pain. Bortz delivers a subtle portrait of violence and endurance, and an intriguing work that places varied experimental forms in dialogue with one another. (Feb.)