‘Hemming Flames’ by Patricia Colleen Murphy

Hemming-flamesAdrianne Kalfapoulou at the Quarterly Conversation:

With “Losing our Milk Teeth,” the opening poem of Patricia Colleen Murphy’s award-winning collection, Hemming Flames, the author announces from the outset that we’re in for a thrilling ride—thrilling as in thriller as much as the acute pleasure of reading masterful poems. Hemming Flames is by turns terrifying, uncanny, and sometimes lunatic, in the ways lunacy charts (if it does chart anything) the unpredictable and uncanny. There is also a wry and blunt humor here, a consciousness latching onto what will carry it through the traumas of an imploding family.

These poems’ tonal registers, their pitch and directness, make for a “hard to put down” read more characteristic of novels than most poetry collections. In “Losing our Milk Teeth” the father will say, “pass the mother/fucking peas. And, could you//try not to murder yourself/ in front of the children.” Ritual matter-of-factness is turned into ritual high drama, as Murphy parodies a type of family-gathering etiquette meant to tame demons that can go wildly out of control. But there is so much more here as Murphy mines her family’s unraveling; she is also telling us something about the subversive and redemptive possibilities of language. Or as she puts it in “The Princess of Creeping,” “no one can say I did not live a long time/ in the danger theater, where the play begins/ with all the dolls behaving perfectly.”

more here.