Letters to Aunt Lucy
A Freedom Book
tl;dr summary: Exploration of our connection to a wild ancestry told through a hybrid of poetry and personal essay.
There’s something inherently primal about the word choices in the “Aunt Lucy” chapters. “Aunt Lucy’s Ouroboros of Love” starts strong (“Love is the stone that sinks me” is perhaps my favorite line in the entire book) and then uses repetition to maintain the feel of the first line throughout the poem. “Aunt Lucy’s ABCs of Hips” plays with language without getting so clever it loses its rhythm. Of the Aunt Lucy sections, “Aunt Lucy’s Stick of Cypress” feels the least locked into a form, and that evolution from the first to the third poem I found to be an interesting progression. Almost as if the longer the narrator communes with Aunt Lucy the less different from the narrator Aunt Lucy’s voice becomes.
I had the pleasure of hearing this book performed and it was enchanting and somewhat mesmerizing aloud. My post-reading recollection was more of the feel and big beats of the poems as opposed to the specific words. Reading on the page was a different experience. I found myself dwelling more on individual lines and words rather than taking in the piece as a whole. It let me appreciate the linguistic choices more but I would encourage readers to give it a go aloud first and get the overall sense of the piece, because it’s otherwise just too easy to get sucked into the line by line moments and this is a book that excels at the wide view.
I’m generally a sucker for any kind of hybrid form. The way this book is divided stylistically is masterful, creating a sense of conversation between two distinct voices that’s reinforced by the shifting form. “Picky Man()goes” is the only thread from the modern narrative told in poetry rather than prose, which feels fitting. That first poem is where the narrator first hears the voice of Aunt Lucy speaking through her body. She’s in a sense visited by this primal ancestor when she connects to her through the act of eating a mango. There are brief moments of prose in “Picky Man()goes” too, a melding of the modern and the ancient brilliantly expressed through form. The back and forth of the first piece also prepares the reader for both formats to come.
There is a lot of beauty packed into not very much space in Letters to Aunt Lucy. The sparsity of it is something else I was drawn to. There is no part of this book that feels unnecessary, no low points or weak sections. It feels like a delightful taste of a much broader concept, and I’m hoping that the “Chapter 1” on the front of this volume means Aunt Lucy will be answering more letters in the future.