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Book Review :: Good Grief, the Ground by Margaret Ray

Good Grief, the Ground by Margaret Ray book cover image

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

In Good Grief, the Ground, Margaret Ray’s debut collection, “we are in Central Florida.” It is late summer. We are coming of age, making out at the movies, sneaking into a pool, navigating gender tensions and expectations, and “no one is dead yet.” The poet writes personally of “the cusp of childhood” and adulthood and expands socio-politically to “the border / between” a “violent history / of colonialization” and what we “get away with… because” we “are white,” between queer desire and autonomy, between “this woman and wanting” “and wanting to be.” There is “a glow of danger and ferocity pulsing off” Ray’s lines, a ”buzzing-heat-made-into-sound that means” “we change // when we can name things.” But in reality “naming it’s no inoculation against / what happens in every parking lot alone at night.” There are “too many dead women.” In these poems, Ray is the one who carries both her younger and adult selves “across the threshold” where “[c]hildren are made of risk” and “someone says hysterectomy.” Whether we are children or adults, “everything / has always arranged itself into before / and after.” Everyone has to be “fluent in the grammar / of emergency.” The poems emit “the feeling of being ready to go somewhere,” but soon realize “there were never any good exit strategies.” Considering this ground of no exit, do we continue to risk “betting on anything” or do we go about “inoculating … against / hope”? Ray’s poems strive toward “self-sufficient womanhood” to “build the version where memory works,” to “feel at home in this life.” Isn’t that what we all want, dear reader? Margaret Ray’s Good Grief, the Ground “sparkles with impermanence,” “the most delicious tingling.”

Good Grief, the Ground by Margaret Ray. BOA Editions Ltd., April 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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