Buzzed Books #62 by Stephanie Porven
Kelle Groom’s Spill
Kelle Groom’s Spill begs to be read by candlelight in a dark room. Groom’s poems, many of which are narrative, read as almost autobiographical in their expression of her speaker’s struggle with fears that prey on all of us at some point in our lives: fear of aging, of losing loved ones, and most notably, fear of losing memories. The collection focuses on the speaker grappling with grief and regret as the result of experiencing such losses, but it also offers readers joys that pierce through everyday experiences. The speaker pauses to listen to how words rolled off the tongue of the man working the meat counter at a grocery store, to consider the shiny gold teeth of a stranger after he crashed into her car on the freeway. Such moments contrast well with the raw imagery and heart- wrenching references to memory loss which Groom disperses throughout this collection.
Many poems throughout Spill focus on vivid images of physical pain. Readers are given their first glimpse of this theme in the book’s opening poem through the lines, “If someone must saw open / my chest I want all this light to be what spills out” (“The Lost Museum”). As the collection goes on, a shift occurs in how physical pain is brought about. The speaker goes from imagining situations where others could hurt her to reflecting on how she, and other people mentioned in a few of her poems, can self-harm amid emotional struggle. We are given images of the speaker holding a lighter under her arm until her skin blisters, of a beekeeper who uses a bee’s stinger to repeatedly stab his own arm, paralyzed from an injury.
While Groom’s poems take readers through mystical and domestic settings, her speaker seems to find the most comfort from her emotional struggles when she’s immersed in nature, wandering through a moonlit forest or walking along where the ocean meets the shore. The poem “St. Petersburg” alludes to this idea through the lines, “Put me to sleep in a forest / where trees / steadied me.” The speaker’s yearning for nature is also echoed throughout the collection when she reflects on examples of how nature attempts to break through that which is artificial, abandoned, or dead. To Groom, even the act of newly-hatched sea turtles squeezing through wire fencing that someone wrapped around their nest evokes a sense of sacredness.
Of all the references to fear, the speaker’s fear of losing her memory seems to be the most dominant. Groom’s speaker worries she’ll one day forget joyful memories she shared with loved ones both living and dead: “I forget everything / all the time” and “maybe we had done all / this before & forgotten” (“Train Poem #1” and“Train Poem #2”).
The grief of her son’s death leaves the speaker unable to move from room to room in her own home without feeling burdened by memory. Groom’s use of unexpected line breaks and blank space adds to this idea of grief as a physically and emotionally draining experience that can leave one longing for rest:
…Unable to move More than once, I’d let
myself go into the image of disappearing—dune, ocean, horizon line—
and closed it like a door Somewhere I have to lay it down.
(“The Great Nebula of Orion”)
Spill is a masterfully written collection of poems that reminds readers that to lament is human. Through her poetry, Groom urges readers to let go of the weight of their memories, acknowledge their fears, and recognize flickers of joy amidst the shadows . She tells us we are not alone in our weariness. She encourages us to abandon the losses we carry like boulders in our hearts so that we might wander along our own tumultuous shores listening to our own memories breaking, spilling over to meet us.
Stephanie Porven is a proofreader by day and poet by night who earned her MFA at the University of Central Florida. Her current interests include re-reading a few of her favorite classical myths, tending to the ivy on her back patio, and attempting to convince her fiancé to adopt a dog. Her work has appeared in Hypertrophic Literary, The Hamilton Stone Review, Peacock Journal, and other online literary magazines.