Grief and the Attentive Poet

In memoir-tinged poems about dementia and autistic children, we encounter the world outside ourselves

If all poems are about either love or death, poetry that deals in grief may really pack a wallop, for, should it truly rise to the occasion, it will cover love and death simultaneously—full force, head on. Three recent collections from Brick Books claim this territory, albeit in distinct ways, with a fierceness that is moving, occasionally claustrophobic and often joyfully expansive, even transformative.

Tell Them It Was Mozart, Angeline Schellenberg’s first collection, inspires compulsive page turning in a way that poems seldom do. It features a narrator raising two children on the autism spectrum, and reads like a memoir-in-verse, one littered with vomit, wordplay, stuck zippers, competing diagnoses, moments of grace and wonder, and a buffet of terrors large and small. If this is indeed a form of memoir, why poems and not prose? It is possible, Schellenberg shows us, to isolate key moments in a...