cover image Round Lake

Round Lake

Grace Bonner. Four Way (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-935536-74-1

Bonner maps the heartache of fleeting love and the deaths of her sister (drug-induced pancreatic hemorrhage), father (cancer), and mother (suicide) in this plaintive debut collection. The work shines brightest in her ability to illustrate deep grief. Bonner describes the consuming stillness one feels after a tragedy (“I was fitted for this, to exist/ in the liable interstices// between heartbeats”), the fear of moving forward in life alone (“After loss, the heart/ tethers, like a kayak,// to the nearest, fixed body”), and the severe denial that one might acquire in exchange for sanity (“with the phone off, I can pretend/ you might have called”). Although this is a dark collection, Bonner offers light and warmth as she reflects on the dark humor of her mother, the sweet nature of her sister during her sobriety, and the moment she first felt true closeness with her father. Bonner’s poems are largely straightforward and unstylized, though they occasionally veer into distracting wordplay. Bonner’s haunting, intimate poetry functions as a cathartic outlet and serves as a comforting map of emotions for anyone that has felt unnavigable sorrow: “Every highway has a thousand ghosts,/ and every ghost a thousand exits.” (Oct.)