Grief's Alphabet

Carrie Etter


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Seren Books
8 April 2024
ISBN: 9781781727508
60 pages

From the publisher

Carrie Etter’s Grief’s Alphabet is a shattering elegy for the poet’s mother, opening a pathway through grief in spite of the impossible task of expressing such a loss. The collection evokes the complex, intimate relationship of a mother and daughter and thus the magnitude of the mother’s death. 

The collection begins both chronologically and alphabetically with ‘An Adoption in 360°’, ‘Bigamy,’ etc., an order which breaks down quickly in the face of loss. The early poems portray the family from its beginnings with the narrator’s adoption through adolescence, addressing experiences of bereavement, poverty, attempted suicide, and teenage pregnancy in such vivid poems as ‘The House of Two Weathers, or the Years after the Layoff’ and ‘Pregnant Teenager & Her Mama.’ 

The second section, ‘The Brink,’ wrenchingly conveys the mother’s unexpected death and the banal yet painful aftermath of sorting clothes, finding the will, and arranging the funeral, as well as the first excruciating months of mourning. The final section, ‘Orphan Age,’ presents life after loss through the long work of grieving. Memories return involuntarily in ‘the whiff of not quite nostalgia’ in ‘M Is Usually Memory and Occasionally McDonald’s’ and in familiar food in ‘Ode to Tuna Casserole.’ The abecedarian title poem, ‘Grief’s Alphabet,’ brings together the whole, from the mother’s disappointed aspiration to become a teacher, to her abrupt decline, to the speaker’s grief, regret, and renewal.  

In its raw yet deft evocation of a mother and daughter’s relationship, Grief’s Alphabet celebrates love in the same breath as it weeps for its loss.