Litany of Thanks
by Joan Aleshire
paper, 60 pages, $14.95
In these poems, elegy gives off its most ancient light: not to stun, but to stop us; not to save us but so we lose ourselves in the sweet and gritty how it was, and past that, into gratitude. Aleshire has written a large and deeply human book.
It has been said, Every poem an elegy. Loss is our subject, memory its frame, and "grief makes a weight / that only song relieves" In Joan Aleshire's hushed, intelligent, moving elegies, to die means to have lived: the lover, the mother, the friend, the past itself. These poems, composed in those spaces "between what's lost and what stays," converse with her dear dead. They argue with them, question them, educate them in loss, and by so doing, move us to converse with our own dear dead. What more can we ask, except, with the author, "What is it / like? What are you up to, where you are?"
"Cold sharpens the stars" - The wisdom of Joan Aleshire's elegies lies in their graceful transformation of grieving into a reexamination of self and world. At the heart of this admirably mature and compelling collection is the "afterlife," not of the dead, but of the living, the relentless work of memory that resists finality, that lifts the glass from the portraits of the dead, exposing them again to time and perceiving in all its "subtle distinctions" the beauty of the world they were part of. If memory itself isn't a kind of litany, these poems make it into one, with the intelligence of their craft and the quiet assurance of their voice.