Dear Almost. Finished 9-13-16, rating 4.5/5, poetry, pub. 2016
Dear Almost is a book-length poem addressed to an unborn child lost in miscarriage. Beginning with the hope and promise of springtime, poet Matthew Thorburn 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.
Last month I read Dear Almost and was so moved. Jason and I experienced a miscarriage when I was 36 and it was a difficult thing to wrap my head and heart around. Eventually I was able to tell a few people and my good friend told me that she too had suffered a miscarriage the year before and didn’t know if she was supposed to tell people or just try to forget about her ‘almost’. Since then I’ve talked to many women, friends who’ve had miscarriages, but it was that friend whose words stuck in my head. Were we supposed to talk about it, which is the route I chose, or just move on and pretend it didn’t happen, like she did? There is no right answer, of course, because like Thorburn so perfectly addresses in the book one day there is this life full of possibility and the next day all of those possibilities are gone and it hardly seems real. How each chooses to move on from that is a very personal thing.
I am not much of a poetry reader, but I do like to read outside of my comfort zone and when Serena told me what the poem was about I was in. Reviewing a poem is not a skill I really possess, but reading something beautiful full of sadness, grief, joy, and a renewal of spirit and appreciating it was easy. I was completely caught up, all of the emotions of the poet swirling around the ones that it brought out in me. It gives me hope that one day I might be able to call myself a poetry buff.
I’ll leave you with a little from the end. The last few pages bring tears to my eyes every time I read them but I’m only sharing a small part..
We’ve had our time
together. I wanted you
to see the snow.
I wanted to show you
these days, what
life is like. It scares me
I can no longer
picture your face,
which was only ever
my memory of
my imagining of
how your face
might look someday-
to hold onto.
I want to thank Serena for having me on the tour and Matthew Thorburn for graciously sending me a copy of his newest poem. Thorburn also wrote an article in the Sept/Oct Poets & Writers magazine talking about this new poem so check it out if you can. It elevates the reading experience.
Other stops on the tour-
10 thoughts on “Dear Almost by Matthew Thorburn”
Thanks, Stacy, for taking a chance on this book-length poem. Poetry is something that you can connect with if the subjects resonate with you. In this case — even if it is a very sad reason — this poem connected with you and you with it. Thanks so much for reviewing it.
That sounds like a sad and moving poem. I’m sure it will mean a lot to a lot of people.
That’s definitely a poem worth reading.
You are right, there is no one right answer! It takes a lot of courage to talk about the loss and compassion to hear and not discount whatever is being felt. I am happy to know about this poem. A small booklet that helped me tremendously 30 years ago (not even sure if it is still in print) is entitled When Hello Means Goodbye. Thanks for sharing.
I feel like this is a book I’m going to have to read.
I loss my twins last year early in pregnancy and the pain of it never truly goes away. At first I didn’t tell anyone but now I feel like I have to talk about them because if I don’t no one will ever know they were alive, and they were, if only for a little while.
I think it’s perfectly natural to feel that odd disconnected connection and I think writing a poem is a beautiful way to address that. I still write letters to my babies and it helps me to express the emotion I still feel today.
I’m sorry for your loss as well. *hugs*
So sorry you and Jason had to go through that. My sister had a miscarriage and she and her husband were devastated, and we were too. Sending you many hugs!
Stacy, thank you so much for your review. I appreciate you taking the time to read my new book and offer such a thoughtful response. I hope the book will be meaningful to others who have had to go through a similar experience.
Stacy, just stopping by to say thank you so much for sending me a copy of this book. It just arrived today, exactly a year to the day since I lost the twins. I honestly can’t think of a more perfect thing to receive today; you’ve reminded me that I’m not alone in this and your note was lovely. I’ve not started it yet but I intend to begin it tonight, it looks beautiful.
I’m so glad that you received it on such a difficult day. Hugs and prayers for you.