Guest Post by Mark Guzman
“The intimacy of housing another body and soul inside your own body and soul is indescribable,” writes Claudia Putnam in her debut nonfiction chapbook Double Negative, winner of the 2021 Nonfiction/Hybrid Chapbook Contest. In this short memoir, Putnam engages her reader with this connection of mother and child. It is an intimate portrait of a mother who welcomed her son, Jacob, into the world, only to see him pass so soon in his infancy. Putnam is cerebral but genuine, her prose approachable. She contemplates life and death, the soul, where and how it arrives and departs, the beforehere and the afterhere.
Putnam writes this some three decades after losing her son, Jacob, and what she would have done for him. “Hack and splice, sure. I would have let them cut out my heart if it would have cured my son. It would not have.” This willingness of Putnam to offer her own body in sacrifice for her son, her very heart, echoes the deep bond between mother and child, of souls interwoven even in death. Admitting that this sacrifice would not have saved him is harrowing. She leaves the reader to consider that even if Jacob was saved, his would have been a life of constant struggle and pain. Putnam wants us to consider what it must be like to live beyond the unimaginable.
Double Negative is a meditation on life and death, of parenthood, of the soul and spirit, of dreams and the often-harsh reality that comes with living. Putnam successfully invites us to reflect on the concept of how we live, oftentimes so close to death.
Double Negative by Claudia Putnam. Split Lip Press, March 2022.
Reviewer bio: Mark Guzman lives and teaches in Massachusetts. He is currently pursuing his Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) degree in English at Bridgewater State University.