Disinheritance by John Sibley Williams

Source: the poet
Paperback, 77 pgs.
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Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams seeks to address the natural privilege of passing down traits, memories, and more to another generation in light of recent deaths and miscarriages. But we can take solace in that things that happen to us now have happened before. Like the narrator says in “Salmon Run,” the salmon are moving upstream toward places that their great-grandfathers had gone, which he says is a “temporary holiness of knowing” that “all my mistakes have been made before.”

From "A Dead Boy Martyrs His Mother" (pg. 32)

With a sanctified blade
to behead or slip between
ribs like a love letter
returned to sender.

Many poems use elements of nature — animals in particular — to illustrate the absence of connection or connections that are denied. Williams’ verse will leave some readers agape, like in “I Sit My Grandfather by the Mouth of the Columbia River,” in which the narrator says, “I remember the cornfields as so far from here,// the flat, arid valley that drowned us/and for which we drew blood,/how full a silo feels when emptied of everything but our bodies.” It’s as if the flesh of bodies is inconsequential to what is locked inside them — the memories, the soul. To lose these at once or gradually is disheartening to say the least. In “A Room for Listening,” there are echoes reverberating throughout the stanzas, like the echoes of lives that almost were or that are no more. Williams’ lines are vastly haunting.

There is a sense of longing and deep sadness in these poems, and through this darkness, the narrators attempt to name what is missing even though it cannot be named. Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley Williams is deeply affecting.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

John Sibley Williams is the editor of two Northwest poetry anthologies and the author of nine collections, including Controlled Hallucinations (2013) and Disinheritance (forthcoming 2016). A five-time Pushcart nominee and winner of the American Literary Review Poetry Contest and Vallum Award for Poetry, John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review and works as a literary agent. Previous publishing credits include: The Midwest Quarterly, december, Third Coast, Baltimore Review, Nimrod International Journal, Hotel Amerika, Rio Grande Review, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

  • Anna (Diary of an Eccentric)

    Sounds like you really liked this one!

  • Topazshell

    I liked your review of Disinheritance: Poems by John Sibley. Would like to take a look at this book.