“Because it is easier to miss a stranger / with your mother’s name,” Allison Benis White instead writes about five women named Wendy as a way into the complex grief that still lingers after the death of a sixth Wendy, the author’s long-absent mother. A series of epistolary poems addressed to Wendy O. Williams becomes an occasion for the speaker to eulogize as well as reflect on the singer’s life and eventual suicide: “What kind of love is death, I’m asking?” In the section devoted to Wendy Torrance, the fictional wife from The Shining who was bludgeoned by her husband, the speaker muses on the inadequacy of language to resolve or even contain grief in the wake of trauma: “A book is a coffin. Hoarsely. A white sheet draped over the cage of being.” Ultimately, The Wendys is a book of silences and space in which tenderness and violence exist in exquisite tension. “If to speak is to die,” White writes in “Ignis Fatuus,” “I will whisper.”
Of course it is the absence
that is so beautiful.
Human or animal, the snow
will fall and cover her
Maybe each word
is a footprint filling up
I was here, meaning
I am disappearing.
…it is the space between poems that allows her to begin again and again, to layer narrative upon narrative, reminding us that the past is as multifarious in its interpretations as it is singular in its temporal boundaries…. Read the full review.
…White puts herself on the line to plumb death and its awful impact in poems that are teardrop radiant but never sentimental….
… Violence presses in on all of the Wendys, red or white, blood or milk, sugar, smoke, air, the page, and the prominent white space that demarcates and effaces voice and self…. Here, speech is grief. Here, ‘the living are the dream of the dead’ and the poem is the hallowed interface.
… The space and silence in these poems speak as eloquently as the words. This book is soul-deep-dear to me. From deepest loneliness, I return to it for deepest comfort.
… White teases the seams between self and other, between fiction and ‘the real’ of the mother’s lost body…. These poems teach me how to mourn, which means they teach me how to love.