cover image Fleshgraphs


Brynne Rebele-Henry. Nightboat (UPNE, dist.), $15.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-937658-54-0

Painfully adolescent and preternaturally wise, teenage wunderkind Rebele-Henry fills her debut collection with fractured, polyvocal, visceral engagements with darkness and pain—both psychical and physical. Her numerous speakers include a disturbed young mother with an aversion to her baby (“I don’t want to name this cartilage/ watermelon, this alien kitten”), a rape victim, a trans man, and the child of a very busy prostitute. They are under the influence of every drug on the planet and self-mutilating in increasingly disturbing ways: swallowing Exacto blades, cutting with a vegetable peeler, and drinking bleach so that their organs “turn shiny and blonde.” They have friends named “Billy-Bob Jones,” “Fucker John,” and “Cookie Monster Rob.” Though the overall tone is very bleak, Rebele-Henry has an equally potent sense of humor, referring to “sports moms” with “pseudo lesbian haircuts” and a man with a “DICKLRD” vanity license plate. References to cannibalism, child molestation, mutilation, and sex acts incorporating pig masks skirt the edges of palatability, but they fit with the violently corporeal nature of puberty, which the poet aptly compares to a werewolf’s transformation. It is also an age prone to shock value, and the reader eventually becomes numb to it. Rebele-Henry’s ability to briefly but fully embody such varied personas indicates a profound emotional intelligence and maturity. [em](Sept.) [/em]