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String by Matthew Thorburn

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 84 pgs.
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String by Matthew Thorburn is a poetry collection that tells a story of a boy living through war and explores the thread of loss and memory with precision. Every moment with this boy is unexpected, and his pain becomes our pain. Through these poems, Thorburn gives us an intimate picture of this teenager’s life from the doctor with the cigarettes on his desk to Rosie, who catches his eye.

While there is memory that delights and makes this boy smile, there are other, darker memories that he cannot forget.

They (pg. 11)

liked to throw things
a man down a well a woman
through a window they

liked to know things
names and dates your hopes
what hurt my hiding place

the combination to Saltzman's
empty safe they liked to 
break things doors bicycles

legs and backs and necks
they liked to take things
money gold rings fingernails

and fathers they had
no need for her none for me
except they were hungry so

hungry and so angry
like shadows they liked to hide
behind my back they liked

to ride behind my eyelids
death was their dark horse
they never stood still.

Thorburn’s images bring the reader into each scene. It is harrowing; it is deeply depressing. But there also is light in the survival. What can survive a Holocaust? What can survive a war? What can survive genocide? Our memories, our connections, our stories. We merely have to share them.

Damaged Animal (pg. 12)

The poor white upright
piano scored with
bullet holes they shot it too

then tipped it off
the balcony mangling Rosie's

silver bicycle forever
after a damaged animal
the white keys broken

teeth in the gutter
where their piss trickled

the black keys like
fingers broken in 
black gloves

String by Matthew Thorburn is achingly beautiful and unforgettable. The story will have you turning the pages as if it were a novel. The imagery is searing and heartbreaking. If you are on the lookout for a narrative poetry collection with a cohesive story, this is one for you. Thorburn is at his best here.

RATING: Cinquain

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About the Poet:

Matthew Thorburn’s new book of poems is String, published by Louisiana State University Press in March 2023. He’s also the author of seven previous collections, including The Grace of Distance, a finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize; the book-length poem Dear Almost, honored with the Lascaux Prize in Collected Poetry; and A Green River in Spring, winner of the Coal Hill Review chapbook competition. ​His work has been recognized with a Witter Bynner Fellowship from the Library of Congress, the Mississippi Review Prize, and fellowships from the Bronx and New Jersey arts councils and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. A native of Michigan and for many years a New Yorker, he lives with his family in small-town New Jersey.

Mailbox Monday #723

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Emma, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

You Cannot Save Here by Anthony Moll for Gaithersburg Book Festival.