dear girl: a reckoning by drea brown. Gold Line Press, 2014. 47 pages. $10.00, print.
drea brown’s dear girl: a reckoning is the winner of the 2014 Gold Line Press Poetry Chapbook Competition and a hauntingly beautiful glimpse into the Middle Passage and the life of Phillis Wheatley. brown’s poetry attempts to envision not only Phillis Wheatley as the poet, but also Phillis as the girl aboard a slave ship struggling to understand not only her situation, but also her new identity as someone’s property.
Each of brown’s poems deals with a specific moment in the harrowing journey across the ocean and the themes of haunting, rememory, and giving voice to the dead. This theme of rememory, a term which brown borrows from Toni Morrison, is one that occurs in each poem and calls into question how memory itself influences not only an individual, but also perhaps, an entire group of people. brown tells Wheatley’s story not only to show how portions of the poet’s identity were erased or unacknowledged, but also to address how the girl in her poems could embody not only Wheatley, but also countless unnamed girls.
brown asks readers to reimagine, remember and employ rememory to give voice to the dead and through doing so, exorcise some of our own haunted, unacknowledged pasts and shared histories. The chapbook opens with a poem emphasizing the voices of the dead, but end’s with a similar request successfully closing the narrative. brown’s rich imagery, variety of poetic forms and narrative tells readers that the dead will have their stories told: “the dead will have their due. they will speak from graves or whisper into the ears of poets or search oceans, to begin here or rupture or capture loss” (45).
-Chelsea Graham, MAR