by Lisa Donovan
$16.00 | October 2016
136 pgs, full color images
Judith Hermann observes in Trauma and Recovery that when an individual testifies to trauma, she is asking the bystander to share the burden of pain: to engage and to remember. Red of Split Water shapes this kind of witness into lyric insistence: “It is a locale of verifying the self, a sound recognized by its utterance as instantaneous uncertainty.” In this poetry, language divides from itself and returns: a movement both aghast and obsessed. The patterns of the poetry create repetitions and recognitions that the poet clasps and then releases in doubt, “she dis/written.” Yet a voice establishes itself here—resolute, wounded, brave. The reader comes to recognize, in solidarity, that we all are “born or brought into the world by un-beginnings or by severance.” Here is the poem as offering, an incantation for survival and healing.
Red Split of Water, a burial rite – a book that is also ritual – to read (write) as ritual, one of waking, and in its two-fold sense: to come into awareness (to be born), and to keep vigil (“a sitting up at night with a corpse”). Here is a rite that allows us to, literally, fill in/enter into the blank spaces created by such waking. Within these shimmering gaps, Lisa Donovan’s constellations of violence and enduring witness are astonishing. In the places drenched by disappearances, you can hear a girl child, all through the long night, humming.
“She is light, may not exist. Trees sink with the weight of glassy icicles. Are you here, little one?” Only a few pages into this emotionally epic work, and the chilling effects of this book already rank with, say, Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter. This book of poetry, in various verse and prose forms, is beautiful, important, terrifying, and ultimately satisfying as few books of poems have ever managed to be.
Lisa Donovan’s Red of Split Water: a burial rite is a fearless and graceful work of recovery and release. Her sequences are rhythmic landscapes where lyrical and prosaic forms prepare the ground: “This line of hills your clavicle, your pelvis, knees. This place not extracted is how you lend yourself to be.” Elemental forces chant warnings of and prayers for the body’s “breakdown of buoyancy; the pull you down” while “clouds drift / in and / away all / day like / this.” Line drawings interposed among the book’s five sections offer animistic filaments “wreathed around the bones” as Donovan’s coda and afterword frame harrowing portraits of survival. Red of Split Water is an astonishing invention of farewell that invokes our deepest concern for poetry’s transformative power. “What are you willing to do? To dress the [ ] figure.”
-W. Scott Howard
About the Author
Lisa Donovan’s work has been a finalist for multiple prizes, including Kelsey St. Press’ FIRST! Poetry Prize. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Denver’s Creative Writing Program, a M.F.A. from Brown University’s Literary Arts Program, and briefly studied at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Dr. Donovan currently teaches non-fiction writing to undergraduates at the University of Colorado, Boulder and to adults at the non-profit Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop in Denver. She lives in the very quaint town of Edgewater, CO where she walks her dog, Beatrice, and wonders about the life and upbringing of Nell Brinkley.