An Exploration of the Soul
Review: One Night Two Souls Went Walking
Georgia I. Salvaryn
Coffee House Press, pp. 216
“What is a soul?” In the beginning of Ellen Cooney’s One Night Two Souls Went Walking, the narrator, a hospital chaplain, brings our attention to this curiosity and, throughout the novel, explores situations that shed light on this inquiry as she interacts with her patients and coworkers in the medical center. As Cooney takes us through the young chaplain’s journey on her night-shift rounds, the reader takes a look at some of the hypotheses to that very question: What is a soul?
One Night Two Souls Went Walking is written in a diary-entry-esque form where the narrator expresses herself in a straightforward, conversational manner. At times, this style of writing was difficult to understand, causing me to go back and reread a sentence or phrase; but it gave the narrator an authenticity that felt natural in speech.
Each chapter is written like its own short story; most chapters, specifically the ones in the beginning of the book, have the ability to stand on their own and give potential readers a gist of what the book is about.
The Cinema of Our Tender Hell
Review: Things to Do in Hell
Collection of Poems
Coffee House Press, pp. 91
In his collection of poems, Things to Do in Hell, Chris Martin depicts the mundane in all its hellish glory. Its title sets a tone for the dichotomy within, seemingly belittling the grandeur of hell. His poetry brings attention to life and death, light and dark, pain and mercy, the quotidian and the grandiose. His poems are accompanied by unsettling drawings of everyday objects. These objects, covered in words, act as a sort of visual poetry, going beyond the standard line-by-line poem. The only way I can describe the aesthetic of this book of poetry is a creative, sometimes calm and untheatrical, display of ennui that attempts to connect earth and hell.
"And love is a bond radiating from primaries to secondaries, tertiaries and beyond."
Humanity has an obsession with sorting itself into categories. Academic, athletic, tall, short, old, young… the sorting never ends. With these categories, inevitably comes stereotypes, certain kinds of people that we expect to see attached to each category, and ridicule if they do not.
Maiden Leap by CM Harris is an exploration of identity and relationships, the pressure to conform for the people you love, and the terrifying freedom of embracing who you truly are after a lifetime of denial.
Not understanding what you have until you lose it is a bitter feeling. But losing something you’ve always recognized as important leaves a unique wound. The Mason House is a wonderfully vivid memoir painting the likeness of a young woman and her family dealing with that wound and doing their very best from allowing it to fester. And similarly to the many others who have and still must do the same, Marie and her family members struggle to adapt.
Loss is the key emotion of The Mason House and the author, T. Marie Bertineau, makes us clearly understand her loss of her “Gramma,” the owner of The Mason House, by showing us who Gramma was through her own eyes. Bertineau is great at presenting instantly recognizable people. And the picture she paints of Gramma is one of a genuine, if not often harsh, person with woods lady wisdom. A cool, sometimes enigmatic woman who is worth inheriting some personality from.
On her dedication page, Cherene Sherrard indicates her poetry collection, Grimoire, is “[f]or the mothers.” I am left with the following question: what makes a mother a “mother?” Is it the nine months of carrying a child in the womb, giving birth, and then raising said child? Or is it simply the act of loving a child, despite not ever meeting them due to gestation or birth complications?
I ask this question because many of the speakers in Grimoire are childless, either due to miscarriages, complications, or stillbirths. Are they included in Sherrard’s dedication to “mothers”? Can they even be considered mothers without living children? These mothers in Grimoire, who have lost their babies, are Black mothers in America, and for many, they have lost their babies due to factors out of their control such as miscarriages and institutionalized racism.