After last year’s Griffin Poetry Prize nomination for her stunning book, Ocean, Sue Goyette is at the top of her poetic game. She returned this year with The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl (Gaspereau Press), a long poem with a black bear on an artful hand-printed baby girl pink cover.
Part eulogy, part poetic non-fiction, Goyette pays tribute to a four-year-old Massachusetts girl who died after being prescribed by a psychiatrist ADHD and bipolar medication in 2006. The girl’s parents were convicted of her murder. Goyette prefaces the book with a quote by E.M. Forster: “Logic! Good gracious! What rubbish!” In her brilliant and poetic way, Goyette confronts the story with heart and poetic reason.
While the characters remain unnamed, known only as the judge, jury, the lawyers, witnesses, the girl’s parents, and her beloved bear, it’s their description that makes the qualities of this long poem almost theatrical. The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl begs to be read aloud from start to finish. This isn’t a collection of poetry one can start and put down.
In a way, the book almost reads as a fever dream. A poem deeply conceived in thought, and fully formed as it came onto the page. The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl haunts the reader, as we recognize how profoundly society failed this small child. It is within the personification of the bear, we find the voice of the girl.
Goyette offers, “The girl’s bear heard the ghost of the girl’s roar.”