Thank you to Booklist and Briana Shemroske for this glowing review!
“I was born in a dry world, and we lived / as chasms among men,” writer and educator Westhale states in “Saguaros.” In this award-winning debut collection, Westhale sifts through the sweltering Southern California of her youth to spotlight the chasms of poverty, gender, and gaping loss. With allusions to Flannery O’Connor and Neko Case, Christianity and Greek myth, Westhale’s searing, songlike poems evoke a world of dust, drought, and infinite grace. At times, these poems flicker with violence: a sharpened branch in “Ars Poetica”; a knife to the gut of a jackrabbit in “Saguaros”; or, in “Writing the Canon,” “a small blip on memory’s seismograph / . . . gone red red red.” Elsewhere, Westhale weaves love and thrilling triumph into each word; time is something to “braid . . . / into your hair,” and crickets—“they sing, never be ashamed.” In “Poem in Which I Rewrite History,” Westhale writes, “I meant to shake a psalm from your skin.” Indeed, throughout this entire haunting, biting, breathtakingly beautiful collection, she shakes a psalm from every page.— Briana Shemroske
Read the full review here.