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Book Review :: Pocket Universe by Nancy Reddy

Pocket Universe by Nancy Reddy book cover image

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

Nancy Reddy’s Pocket Universe confronts the bloody battle of birth, namely a child’s and when a “woman becomes a mother,” but there are other kinds of births, too, within obstetrics, child development, and because the word birth doubles as transition—“into the next life.” The collection opens with the 16th century practice of male doctors moving “between delivery room and morgue,” which put women’s lives at grave risk before epidemiology revealed the necessity of washing hands to prevent communicable disease. From some history of birth, birthing medicine and practices, the poems move to the “failings / of our postpartum bodies” and perinatal anxieties and realities, where the “baby teaches me / I am not what I thought.” The poems of the third section deal with hauntings: “The ghosts of all those women” who lost children in childbirth, including the poet’s grandmother, and the fears particular to a mother of sons. Women’s legitimate “catalog of grievances” continues “inside the long future” of motherhood and marriage in the book’s fourth section, where the poet wonders “if domestic has to be / the opposite of desire.” To answer herself: “inside this mother’s body / / there’s a woman in here still.” Stitched throughout the collection is the enormous responsibility placed on and the shocking disregard for women, often blamed for experiencing pain during childbirth and “perinatal mood and anxiety disorders” in the birth “history written by a man.” This is poetry that admits: “It is so hard / to live inside a body,” and yet “our collective unbearable luck” of “[t]he new world’s not / an unmixed blessing.” Ultimately, Reddy’s is a celebration of this “blessed and lucky life.”

Pocket Universe by Nancy Reddy. Louisiana State University Press, March 2022.

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 are forthcoming.

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