Source: Academy of American Poets membership benefit
Paperback, 88 pgs
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The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2013 and the 2013 James Laughlin Award, is a collection of poems that highlights the power of goodbye and how it can free us from limitation. Whether those limitations are self-imposed or imposed upon us by others or the outside distractions that keep us locked in place.
There are several poems in the collection about laws against the disabled being seen in public and the societal burdens that come with those medical miracles — prosthetic legs, for instance — and how those “norms” are meant to weigh down the potential of those human beings. While these “norms” must be recognized to be overcome, it is a big obstacle to overcome, especially when those limitations or “norms” become self-imposed limitations on the self. Saying goodbye to those can be a hard process to perform and a distance that can be difficult to maintain, but there is an inherent power in saying goodbye to those things.
Goodbyes (pg. 50) begin long before you hear them and gain speed and come out of the same place as other words. They should have their own place to come from, the elbow perhaps, since elbows look funny and never weep. Why are you proud of me? I said goodbye to you forty times. I see your point. That is an achievement unto itself. My mom wants me to write a goodbye poem. It should fit inside a card and use the phrase, “You are one powerful lady.” There is nothing powerful about me though you might think so from the way I spit. I don’t want to say goodbye to you anymore. I heard the first wave was an accident. It happened in the Cave of the Hands in Santa Cruz. The four of them were drinking and someone killed a wild boar and someone else said, “Hey look, I put my hand in it. Saying goodbye is like that. You put your hand in it and then you take your hand back.
Weise touches upon the hardships and the freedom of goodbye, but she also talks about its empowering nature. There is a willfulness to when we choose to make those breaks, and there are many of those moments in this collection. The Book of Goodbyes by Jillian Weise, recipient of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award in 2013 and the 2013 James Laughlin Award, offers a great deal to discuss, and would be an interesting selection for a book club discussion.
About the Poet: (Photo credit: Guillermo Morizot Hires)
Jillian Weise was born in Houston, Texas, in 1981. She studied at Florida State University; the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was the Fred Chappell Fellow; and the University of Cincinnati.
Weise is the author of The Book of Goodbyes (BOA Editions, 2013), which received the 2013 James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, which recognizes a superior second book of poetry by an American poet. Her debut poetry collection, The Amputee’s Guide to Sex, was published by Soft Skull Press in 2007.