cover image Barnburner


Erin Hoover. Elixir, $17 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-932418-67-5

Hoover exhumes the skeletons buried neatly behind the white picket fences of modern America in a debut that’s rife with outspoken disillusionment. Through a series of confessional narratives, Hoover addresses the quiet violence that suffuses many of today’s environmental, cultural, and gender issues, among others. Employing a straightforward and vehemently snarky style, she elucidates the many ways in which people can be both victims (“It’s what a girl’s days/ are made of: What body part, this time?”) and unwitting, or oblivious, perpetrators (“Don’t say you know yourself/ unless you’ve stepped outside of it,/ seen the shadow you cast/ in your own bronze light”). Employing an empathy scarcely allotted to addicts, Hoover obliquely but incisively illuminates what it means to be one when she writes, “junkies are the only people/ worth talking to about love, because junkies/ are the only ones who ever felt it.” In her most vivid insight, she describes mental well-being’s dependence on acts of understanding: “Rarely did I ask anyone// to perform the dangerous/ feat of stepping into/ another mind, carefully,/ as in an unlit house/ with strange furniture. Such visitors/ quiet the animal mind, leaving/ only the human one.” Hoover’s candid portrait of normalized cruelty is likely to get readers to question their own malignant perceptions and passivity in the face of injustice. (Oct.)