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Book Review :: A Guide to Tongue Tie Surgery by Tina Carlson

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

The verse and prose poems of Tina Carlson’s third collection, A Guide to Tongue Tie Surgery, give tender attention to the lives of girls and women in history, our communities, in legend, myth, literature, and the poet’s life. Our narrator is a daughter who reckons with her life as a child caught between an agoraphobic father and an irresponsible mother who requires “mother me.” Around the family table, “she is they,” burdened by “the weight of words caught in her parents’ throats.”

The poems center on trauma related to intergenerational abuse along matrilineal lines and what follows “after generations of war” along patrilineal lines, but everyone within these poems has their personal, societal, and existential “battles.” Throughout this collection, the poet endeavors to give voice to the oppressed and that which is “made of scars,” to figure out “what to give up and what to throw away,” and how to “untether the tongue.”

Though tongue tie surgery is performed to improve breastfeeding, it has lasting implications for the children and adults who undergo the quick, effective surgery. Results such as these poems, speaking from their wish “to be unarmored.”

In these poems, there is an alternative to sorrow; there is perseverance.

A Guide to Tongue Tie Surgery by Tina Carlson. University of New Mexico Press, August 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear.

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