Micro Review of My Father’s Kites, by Allison Joseph


Micro Review of My Father’s Kites, by Allison Joseph


Steel Toe Books, 2010: $12.00 paperback


Forgiveness isn’t a requisite for elegies (a good thing for Allison Joseph’s collection My Father’s Kites), but it does typically require movements through grief, praise, followed by solace, and Joseph delivers us three distinct sections that arguably follow that rough model. But even though the larger book functions like an elegy, Joseph layers the emotionally difficult content neatly into tightly structured forms—elegies, sonnets and villanelles are particularly sharp. “We choose a simple casket,” the speaker says in “First Consultation: Oritz Funeral Home,” almost out of the side of her mouth, a comment both on the container they selected for her father and perhaps the container of the poem itself, the sonnet, “for its dearth/ of symbols of a god’s redemptive love.”


The formal elements in the book begin to reflect the formal customs and rituals that surround death itself, even if her fathers passing lacks many of those rituals. In “Before the Burial” the speaker acknowledges whats missing: no pastor, no sermon, no organist, no priest, and no widow. “Instead, I read aloud some clumsy words,/ some abstract sentiment I wrote in rhymes,/ a small gesture to make me more secure/ in grief,” which is her being anything but clumsy. Sure, perhaps Joseph is overcompensating with her craftsmanship and her attention to detail, but shes building something worthy of the artifice: “Gold cufflinks, tie tacks, slim silver pens to sign/ the flourish of his signature,” she writes of her father’s personal effects in “Dress Code.” As far as elegies go, regardless of whether or not her father deserves or gets her forgiveness, Joseph has crafted the most remarkable in recent memory.    


—by Travis Mossotti