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Let me first say that I will always be a sucker for anything to do with fairy tales, folklore, history, memory, and ancestry. Where the Wolf is a combination of complicated memory as told through fables and elegies.
I particularly loved the delicate balance of past, present, and future, with the narrator’s perspective on her teenage son, withering mother, and her own childhood. The wolf, everything it is and isn’t, appears throughout the collection. The cover even features a wolf made of tangled flowers as it thinks of devouring another. It makes the reader, or maybe just me, think about how easily we devour our family’s stories or stories we’d rather think of instead. Another one to add to the collection.
The idea of a wolf, or what it means to explore our own histories through stories, is explored from the first page and further in some of my favorite poems from the first section.
“If a Wolf” challenges the reader’s idea of the folkloric wolf. What do we really mean when we each identify a wolf? Is it an animal? A cunning schemer? A cover for a vengeful daughter? A cover for a vengeful daughter who wants nothing more than to be loved and seen by a woman who resents her? I present to you a striking line from the piece:
“I say wolf but I mean gown / of changed night: / forecast of bones falling / from the rooks’ tongues, / the weight of a hundred skies inside.”
“What I Carry” examines the burdens and bonds of ancestry and familial trauma. The poem recounts her mother’s childhood prior to war, her uncle on the front lines, and ultimately, what she must carry as a result. Immediately following “What I Carry” is “Wednesday’s Child”, a dissection of a mother who is losing her identity to memory loss and declining health due to dementia. In it, the narrator observes how her mother no longer remembers the things she regrets and hates, including the narrator. This is all while the narrator waits to see her adopted son.
Later we see the son, all grown up in “Fairy Tale for Mother and Teenage Son”, where the identity of a wolf is once again explored with, “A wolf can be mistaken for a rock. / A wolf can be mistaken for the moon.”
The rest of the collection is just as haunting and stirring, carrying retold fables and wishes for the next generation. The juxtaposition of the poems “Almost Harmless” and “When You Call My Body an Odd Thing” summarizes the major battle the narrator faces: wanting a better life for her son while still fighting against the shards of harm from her own mother’s careless words. This is all while recalling the stain of a father’s absence.
Where the Wolf is a collection for former and current daughters, mothers, and wolves, whatever that may mean to you.
Where the Wolf
Written by Sally Rosen Kindred
Publisher | Diode Editions
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