The word “metanoia” means a change of heart resulting from a spiritual conversion. It’s an act of transformation through penitence. In Sharon McCartney’s latest volume of poetry, that transformation feels both reluctant and unharnessed.
Written as a narrative poem, McCartney’s book is breathtakingly confessional yet bare-boned. So much is revealed in so few words that a taut paradox is created: the writing resembles both a floodgate and a sharp inhalation. “All of that effort to make myself loveable made me unloving,” McCartney writes. The line appears as a single sentence standing on its own. Metanoia is full of these simple yet profound admonitions: “I am not alone. I am in an exclusive relationship with myself.” McCartney’s poetry is meditative, but Metanoia rushes by – it can be read in one sitting.
The encounter with McCartney’s poetry is like drowning in frigid water and trying to catch a breath: everything is dark and urgent. It’s a book that feels light, but its delivery is heavy, and worthy of contemplation. It does not let you off the hook, dealing head-on with loneliness, love (or, rather, the loss of it), neediness, and insecurity. Expectations are questioned, lack of validation is explored, and fears are poked and prodded with razor-sharp insights. The result is a book that clings and haunts. It is confrontational and raw: “Be true to my loneliness,” McCartney writes. “That scares the shit out of me.”
Indeed, this kind of writing could scare anyone. McCartney is merciless in exposing vulnerability, but also builds an intimacy integral to Metanoia’s achievement. The transformation at its heart feels like a dare, as though McCartney is challenging the reader to let her words take hold and sit within the mind.