Poetry Review: Bone Song by Bunny Goodjohn

Hey, where have I been? Mainly, raising monarch caterpillars in my dining room and using them as an excuse not to write any poetry at all.

While doing all of that … I also had the great pleasure of reading Bone Song, by a poet friend of mine, Bunny Goodjohn. Bone Song received the 2014 Liam Rector First Book Prize for Poetry and was published earlier this year by Briery Creek Press (Longwood University).

Bone Song is intensely personal and elegantly wrought. It exposes the aches and pains and hurts of being human — and of being this particular human — without a moment of self-pity or self-absorption. It is honest and tough, whether the subject is a childhood sexual assault, a divorce, or a group meeting at a women’s prison after a DUI, but also deeply compassionate and restrained (in the best sense of the word). This is confessional poetry without the slightest sense of competitiveness or one-upsmanship in suffering. Instead, Goodjohn invites us to contemplate our own scars — as indicators of our past pain, but also our ongoing survival — by revealing hers with a wry wisdom and deeply earned grace.

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From “Association Time at the Blue Ridge Women’s Correctional Facility”:

The rec room hums and we’re all lost
to joining drunken dots of our own
blacked-out biographies. We’re haunted
by mouths that have always swarmed with bees,
homesick for a time when we were too blessed
— or young — to know the treachery of swallowing.

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