Portland writer Emily Kendal Frey released her first poetry collection, The Grief Performance, in 2011 with the Cleveland State Poetry Center, and her latest collection has been highly anticipated. Released with Octopus Books, Sorrow Arrow bears on a similar, yet individual emotion. While she first examined the world of grief, Frey has shifted lenses in order to inspect a different world, that of sorrow. Sorrow Arrow holds what is over 80 poems that are all quite short, but nevertheless offers a daunting emotional load. It’s the classic case of there being so much packed in so little.
Whether it’s statements like, “All night I dreamt of the possibility of dreaming” or “I miss you when it rains and outside of rain,” Frey consistently tailors a contradiction of terms throughout her poems. Such details serve as an invitation for a thorough unpacking, a closer examination of each line. This experience of continual unpacking bears a resemblance to the writing process involved in Frey’s work. As readers track repetition, similes, thematic elements and the like, they become aware of the strives taken by Frey in creating this intricate style of hers.
Frey considers her personal relationships, dissatisfactions, fears and plenty more. Discussing each matter with deep involvement and the occasional playful turn of phrase.
Late in the collection, she writes:
It’s too much
People with their falling down beauty
Their hats at angles
The woman DJ
You stand on some Cheetos
Nobody taught you anything but you kept expanding
Soft as plastic
At first skim, it seems as though Frey is jumping from one context to another, both in an individual poem and in the collection as a whole — first touching on familial relationships, then tapping into her feelings about nature in general (birds, the moon, etc.). After picking up a pen and underlining some lines a second and third time through though, consistent imagery begins to make itself clear. Reoccurring talk of strawberries, arrows, the color green, birds, the moon and so on are revealed to be stringing the entire series of smaller segmented poems together.
Then there are moments where the themes, couplets, and fanciful elements that embody most poetry go unnoticed because of well, frankly, how damn blunt Frey can be:
The first person you loved will die
Their ass will be gone
All of your cats will die and their arrow jaws will break
Come with me
My mother was sad for ten years
The curtains will die
Your giant startling veracity
Everyone will die
The wet smoke of night won’t save us
The series of poems bound in the green, skinny cover offer further exploration of our own feelings or a fuller understanding of those who do constantly battle these emotional dilemmas.
Purchase Sorrow Arrow here.