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Review: The Smallest of Bones - Holly Lyn Walrath

Genre: Poetry

Published: CLASH Books, September 2021

My Rating: 4/5 stars

"Hiding our hearts is easy when we have so many bones"

Few words carry vast and complex meaning, like the smallest of bones carrying the heaviest burdens in this body of poems by Holly Lyn Walrath...

Poetry has always been the hardest genre to review for me as the experience is so deeply personal to every reader. In this case, I might also be highly biased as a med-student with a fascination with all things body and anatomy. Add to that the exploration of themes such as gender, passion, relationships, death and ghosts, and you have something completely up my alley. Although almost impossible, I’ll try to split this review in an “objective”, and a completely subjective part, in hopes of helping more readers assess if this is the right fit for them.

“Objectively”, I like to judge poetry mostly on the question of does the form support the content. In this case that is a definitive YES. The poems are minimalistic and structural, mimicking an almost skeletal form. They strip the described experiences down to the bone, leaving the reader to reconstruct the body around it.

Each poem is made up of a short introduction of a bone and its function and structure in the body, followed by a musing on the above mentioned themes that somehow relate to this particular bone. It makes for a coherent and logical structure throughout that hold the poems together like ligaments.

For this structure to work however, it’s key that the lay-out of the pages is exactly as intended, which in the e-book isn’t always the case. I hope the publisher will be able to fix this issue, so that Kindle-readers can experience the poems as intended as well.

The more subjective reason I related to this collection has to do with my personal experiences. As a soon-to-be-doctor, but also a cancer-survivor and patient with a chronic degenerative illness, my relationship with “the body” is… well… complicated. I adore the human body; its intricacies, its strength and its deeply flawed fragility. I’m also terrified and filled with dread over it. This collection mirrors that feeling somewhat. It’s haunting and simultaneously filled with apprehensive love.

All in all, I truly hope this collection finds its audience. Some readers will find it too bare-bone, but in the hands of fans of this genre it’s an absolute masterpiece.

Many thanks to the author and CLASH Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Find this book on Goodreads.

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