Welcoming in the Starry Night… by Karen Holman

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Welcoming in the Starry Night of the Lightning Bees is the third short book in the fourth volume of the Lost Horse Press New Poets Series. Karen Holman is a social worker in Detroit whose clients include the mentally ill. In the final poem to Saint Dymphna, patron saint of the mentally afflicted, the speaker tells us, “Those afflicted in their minds collect and assemble the words they hope will save them. Their sentences tangle but I have a knack with ciphers. In response to their pleas I weave tapestries of words. Speaking plainly to you now is luxurious.”

Holman does employ plain speech. The opening poem admires the onion for its “frank gaze.” Like Acts of Contrition, the poems in this collection touch upon the relationship between mother and daughter — allegorically through the myth of Persephone and Demeter, and directly through narrative poems like “No Mood” and “Arguing With My Mother Over My Father’s Ashes.”

Holman also questions the trustworthiness of plain speech in this collection. “After the Ark” is an experimental prose poem that employs the strike-through to convey the impact of narrative revisionism:

I walk backward and drop a shawl over my mother’s nakedness. My mother is being beaten. I cover her nakedness. My mother is left for dead. I cover her nakedness. My mother runs away from home. Mother on the day father died in the house. I cover her…

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