cover image Dear Damage: Essays

Dear Damage: Essays

Ashley Marie Farmer. Sarabande, $16.95 trade paper (200p) ISBN 978-1-946448-90-3

Poet Farmer (The Women) parses her complicated family history to create a heart-wrenching portrait of love, family, loss, and aging in this astounding collection. Two weeks after her grandmother slipped and broke her neck, Farmer’s grandfather arrived at the hospital with a gun, shooting her grandmother in a “mercy killing” and trying, though failing, to kill himself. What follows is a dizzying portrayal of Farmer’s grief, told in short, effective bursts from both before and after the shooting. In “Aftermath” she reflects on the way “grief makes you urgent and useless,” and in “Contradiction, 2014,” muses that “as much as I wish my grandfather hadn’t done what he did, I don’t know if I would undo it.” She builds the collection around her grandparents, sharing transcripts of their conversations about celebrities, hitchhikers, and marriage, and also experiments with form in “Selected Internet Comments, 2014–2015,” in which she shares replies to articles on the shooting. In “Mercy,” she writes, “while I’m skeptical of mining beauty from pain... or landing on a diamond takeaway or even claiming good can come from it, I’ve learned that time-freezing anguish makes for micro-moments of unexpected reverence.” Farmer exceeds her intention; the moments she depicts teem with power. This potent work introduces Farmer as a writer to watch. (Mar.)