Anne-Marie Turza’s debut collection hits like a shock of black river water. Its combination of chilling imagery and stark sentiment stings in the best possible way.
The title piece is broken into three parts, divided throughout the text. “A man is sewing button holes into the wings of moths,” Turza writes in one early section, giving a hint of the surreal incantations incorporated into this stunning collection. A darkly meditative quality pervades the book, and the poet maintains a careful balance between the strange and the clinical, the imaginary and the harshly physical. She writes of a “mouth in cursive letters,” skeleton legs that move in unison, and candlelit chants.
True to its title, The Quiet reads like a whisper, but that hushed aspect belies the potency of these poems. “In case of gods we planned to gather as we could, in the gravel drive,” Turza writes in “Haunt.” And, elsewhere, “‘You can’t sleep well, in your language,’ a woman once told me, pipe smoke seeping from the bowl of her vowels.” At times, The Quiet is about people “overcome with the trial of hanging on.” “Households” asks: “and the job of a life? It might be anything, made of wood or drift or warning.”
Each poem is worthy of standing on its own, but some linger long after the book has been set down. “The Glass Case,” which features a young girl lowered into a freezing river, is told with gruesome subtlety. Another standout, “The Veil,” is a discomfiting piece about a woman who sews clothes for dolls she doesn’t own. Though the poem’s rhythm is serene, the narration betrays a sense of suppressed panic.
Unsettling in its ability to draw from the shadows, The Quiet is an evocative, beautifully executed collection that abides like a roaming spirit.