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Even Before My Own Name

I recently read Tracy Koretsky’s first poetry collection, Even Before My Own Name. This book looks unflinchingly at the trauma inflicted by her mother’s death when Koretsky was 12. This trauma includes not only the death itself, but also sharing a household with an abusive older brother, an uncaring stepmother, and a father who was sometimes cruel. Yet the poems, which go on to encompass adult experiences, are never self-pitying or vengeful, but are driven by a passion for life and a desire to embrace all of it, and they are often humorous and tender.

The first poem, “The Wisdom of Stones,” tells the reader to “Treat trouble like/a smooth gray stone” which should be held and felt, then cast “far into the/waters. Watch it echo//…then forget.” The poems that revisit Koretsky’s troubles are like those stones, examined and then tossed. But the poems are not sent into a watery oblivion, but into the world, where they echo while Koretsky moves away from them toward other experiences.

Her use of sounds and rhythms is delicious. This is from “A la Place De La Bastille, La Fête De La Musique”: “springsteen-styling stud to lay the beat/just right for tonight I fête/I funnel unintentional through swell and bob.”

A wonderful book.