A Review of Half Light by Heather Minette

A collection of poems that deals with loss and death can be a tricky thing to pull off. The balance of reverence and heartbreak needs to be just so, with enough hope and light to buttress the pain that inevitably waits within. Minette is able to get it just right in this collection of calm and steady-handed poems of what happens next.

The book is filled with small scenes of how we cope, from coming home from funerals and shedding our Sunday best soiled with sweat and suffering, to all the ways we see the world differently once someone is gone, the way we hear neighbors laugh, cars pass on the street, the ways the light edges through a room on a sunny afternoon. It’s all different when we lose someone, and Minette captures each moment, places it in a jar, punches holes in the lid to keep the moment alive a while longer, and sends it to us to take in and hold it for a while.

Some poems are tiny sermons dedicated to those who are no more, like literary tombstones in the fading summer light. “Penitentiary” is one I quite liked for its tone and visuals, but also is simple solemnness.

He is the man who slept beneath the stars,
who gifted us the earth’s fireworks.  
And the dance of tall pine,
and the grit of the land,
and the way strong men move differently
in January’s northern wind.
Now he is the man behind glass,
a voice delayed by a cord.
I have nothing else to say,
I tell them, he is not here.
And the fireflies are gone, too.

But the poems are also about moving on, about people and places that remain, about children and towns and the way blond hair looks in the Texas sunlight. There are poems of infinite cycles that keep turning, about moons rising and falling, seasons changing. We lose people, we gain people, and people will lose us too someday, but in between there’s a lot of life to live, a lot of remembering, and Minette’s book captures that full life spectrum with tact and grace.

- James H Duncan

1 comment:

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