Review


“I don’t believe/ closure will be possible”: Two Chapbooks

Black Birds: Blue Horse by Natalie Peeterse
Memory Future by Heather Aimee O’Neill

by The Editors

There is a certain remove from the beloved in both Black Birds: Blue Horse by Natalie Peeterse and Memory Future by Heather Aimee O’Neill. Each chapbook has at its heart a love relationship––one platonic and one romantic––and each takes on a nostalgic exploration. Peeterse’s book is an elegy to a friend who was killed in Afghanistan while working for the International Rescue Committee. The speaker revisits her friendship, recalls its intimacies and joys, all the while aware that she is encountering the world while her friends has been removed forcefully from it. The war is made personal, the loss of a young person’s life (the speaker’s memories of this friend are childhood memories, making her youth all the more palpable) intimate. Past and present tense are disjoined; the poem takes place in the present tense, the friend’s death in the past tense. Blank spaces within in the line act as caesuras and jag through each short section of the poem.

The bullets went straight through your body.
It must have been so loud.
I’ve decided you didn’t feel a thing

Peeterse uses the colon as a kind of pivot throughout Black Birds: Blue Horse. What lies on the opposite side of the colon may have lead from the first part or may have created it.

when she can’t sleep: the clap of so many wings.

The result is a long poem that is love letter, personal and grief-ridden and like “something forgotten inside.”

Memory Future by Heather Aimee O’Neill approaches memory to meet different ends, all the while keeping the beloved embraced and entranced. “Winter in Spain,” the long poem at the center of the chapbook is a series of (loose) sonnets that pines and yearns with the best of them. O’Neill doesn’t over emphasize the sonnet structure but allows herself a few beautiful ending couplets that both arrest the reader and recall the immediacy a love sonnet can perform:

My heart, no longer spinning like a wide,
wild broken compass slows. And we collide.
and
I promise comfort, though my need to roam
will take us farther, far beyond the track.
We’ll leave behind a language, travel back.

The other two sections of the chapbook have the same strength of immediacy distributed into smaller poems, ranging in address from the beloved to mother to sister. Memory Future is a glimpse into what a full-length collection by O’Neill might look like: well-wrought and rendered emotional terrain.

Gold Line Press, who published both these chapbooks, is a press based out of the University of Southern California. The rise of such quality small publishers keeps the conversation that is inherent to poetry and full-fledged thought open. Will we be able to read every small press publishing quality poetry? Perhaps not, but part of the joy of these chapbooks is coming across them by chance and then exploding into the intimate thought of their authors.  Black Birds: Blue Horse and Memory Future were chosen as part of Gold Line’s annual contests, more about which may be found at Gold Line Press.