Book Review: What to Do With Baby Ashes

Once upon a time, several years ago, I got a comment on my blog from someone I didn’t recognize. Because I was so new to blogging, I immediately clicked follow – and that just-so-happened-to-click moment led to me following one of the most brilliant poets I think I’ve read. She’s more active on Twitter now, if you want to follow Marnie Heenan @MarnieWriting. You can also find her website https://www.marnieheenan.com/

She’s published several poems in many outlets, but I’d like to present to my little corner of the blogosphere a book of poetry that will send you on an emotional ride.

The Book

What To Do WIth Baby Ashes read 2021

What to Do With Baby Ashes
Author: Marnie Heenan
2020
Amazon Link

The subtitle for this book (which isn’t on the cover) is Poems From My Life Before, During, & After Pregnancy Loss.

=O

Before I get much further, yes – this book does get pretty intense. As someone who will probably never become pregnant, I didn’t think it would be hard. I was there for the nature poetry (and whoo boy, can Heenan pull out some beautiful naturalism), and I still got hardcore heart thumpies. If miscarriage/pregnancy loss is going to be too intense for you, you might want to consider how or when you read this.

Non-Spoiler Review

There are two ways to read this book, and I will admit I did both of them because I just felt like the book deserved it.

Also because the story linking the poems was intense enough that I didn’t stop.

Usually when I read a book of poetry, I read one poem a night just before going to bed and then put it down. I happened to read this one in a single sitting (easy to do – it’s short), and HOLY CRAP WHAT INTENSITY. If you read this in one go, it’s like “Oh, this is pretty neat”, then it goes bam-bam-bam with shooting your heart right out of your chest followed by trying to sew it back together with a rusty needle and floss.

I finished it and was like, “Wow, that sent me somewhere.”

After that, I read a poem at a time (or maybe two, something like that).

5/5 Discoball Snowcones

5 Discoball Snowcones

SPOILERS REVIEW

Like I do with compilation books, I’m going to talk about my favorite, a standout, and least favorite poem.

Favorite: Family Photo
This last poem in the book wraps everything you just read together. It draws the three sections – Before, During, and After – into a nice, tight bundle, and I love it. It was placed perfectly, and I think it did so much to the overall feel of the chapbook in addition to being intense, raw, and well-written on its own.

Standout: Drive Home
I thought about this one being my favorite, but it’s too perfect a fit for standout. It’s unforgettable. It’s such good stream of consciousness, and it has almost a Faulkner sort of feel. It’s short enough that the stream doesn’t become burdensome, and the emotional intensity of it might have been the climax for me.

Least Favorite: Subtropics
Honestly, this is kind of a bullshit section for me because all the poems were good. I chose this one because it was, once I flipped through it to write this review, the one I remembered the least of. It’s necessary to the story because it marks a shift in the author’s situation, but it’s a poem of nature that leads very quietly into the next scene. That’s all.

Next week:

I’m reading the first craft book I’ve ever read – Colleen Chesebro’s syllabic poetry book! Get hype!

9 thoughts on “Book Review: What to Do With Baby Ashes

  1. Peter Martuneac says:

    What a powerful title, the kind that demands your attention. I heard of a book last year that I’ve been meaning to read about the mass suicides of Germans in 1945, and it has that same kind of powerful title: Promise Me You’ll Shoot Yourself

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