Friday, November 4, 2016

Dear Almost

Louisiana State University Press
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
88 pages, $17.95
Formats: Paperback, eBook

Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in miscarriage. Beginning with the hope and promise of springtime, the poet traces the course of a year with sections set in each of the four seasons. Part book of days, part meditative prayer, part travelogue, the poem details a would-be father’s wanderings through the figurative landscapes of memory and imagination as well as the literal landscapes of the Bronx, Shanghai, suburban New Jersey, and the Japanese island of Miyajima.

As the speaker navigates his days, he attempts to show his unborn daughter “what life is like / here where you ought to be / with us, but aren’t.” His experiences recall other deaths and uncover the different ways we remember and forget. Grief forces him to consider a question he never imagined asking: how do you mourn for someone you loved but never truly knew, never met or saw? In candid, meditative verse, Dear Almost seeks to resolve this painful question, honoring the memory of a child who both was and wasn’t there.

“Matthew Thorburn’s Dear Almost is a meditation on our lives and their impermanence, the miracle that we exist at all. The ghost of an unborn child hovers like a breath over these supple lines, but Thorburn finds room for food and prayer, for work and love, for keen observation of the twin worlds we inhabit, the one inside us and the one where our daily lives take place. I am glad to have Dear Almost in both of these worlds.”  —Al Maginnes, author of Music from Small Towns


This is a new form of poetry for me. Written in haibun-like free verse. Free verse poems do not follow the rules and  have no rhyme or rhythm or any particular structure. Basically, it is a long stream of sentences, whereas the context of the poem is broken up by the four different seasons.

How can I love you without ever knowing you? And there’s no answer, finally, none at all-but I still do.

Moreover, from the blurb above the poem is about the author mourning for the daughter he lost to a miscarriage, but is also explaining the world to his lost child as he experiences it. As a reader, I did find the loss that the author endured sorrowful in other respects I felt the poem to be eloquent and vivid. Consequently, this book is perfect for readers who enjoy poetry also for individuals who have gone through a miscarriage.

Matthew Thorburn is the author of six collections of poetry, including the book-length poem Dear Almost (Louisiana State University Press, 2016) and the chapbook A Green River in Spring (Autumn House Press, 2015), winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. His previous collections include This Time Tomorrow (Waywiser Press, 2013), Every Possible Blue (CW Books, 2012), Subject to Change, and an earlier chapbook, the long poem Disappears in the Rain (Parlor City Press, 2009). His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, as well as fellowships from the Bronx Council on the Arts and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. His interviews with writers appear on the Ploughshares blog as a monthly feature. He lives in New York City, where he works in corporate communications.

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