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.
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.