We don’t review a lot of poetry or fiction books on these pages, since our readers tend to want information about specific techniques and strategies they can use in their own recovery efforts. But we do review books about personal stories, and Carol Japha’s Psalms for a Child Who Has Lost Her Mother is as much a book about the author’s personal sojourn in understanding enormous loss as a child as it is a book of poetry.
From the first poem, Silence, to the last, Vision, the reader is taken on a heartfelt journey of Japha trying to put into perspective — dare I say, “make sense of”? — the loss of her mother. It is something most people can relate to, having to cope with the heartbreaking loss of a loved one. It is a universal theme, and one well-suited to be explored through verse.
The poems are elegant and speak simple truths of our humanity, emotions, and what it feels like — in our hearts and in our guts — to know the suffering associated with loss:
I would have told her,
believing she could hear,
and kept talking and believing
and carrying her with me.
If I had been there.
Reading each poem is like going on a small trek with the author, seeing things through her child-like eyes as she processes the loss of her mother at a young age. But with the wisdom that comes from an adult’s reflection and ability to find just the right words to capture those tender, innocent emotions.
There is some powerful imagery in these poems, imagery that encourages your imagination to be there with her as she explores her emotions connected to her mother’s loss. It’s hard to find the words to express this in a review.
This is a unique resource that can be used to help anyone through the dark days of grief and loss of a loved one. I could even see therapists using the book as a way to help their clients process their grief in session, through reflection and discussion of the themes the poems engender.
The book, consisting only of 29 pages and 22 poems, may seem a little thin for a book of poetry. Yet, composed as a chapbook, this wonderful poetry collection makes up for its small numbers with its enormous quality. I imagine it’ll touch your heart as it touched mine.
Psalms for a Child Who Has Lost Her Mother
by Carol Japha
Finishing Line Press, 2015
Chapbook, 29 pages