Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Review of "Child Ward of the Commonwealth," by Eileen Cleary ISBN 9781599487465

Review of

Child Ward of the Commonwealth, by Eileen Cleary ISBN 9781599487465

Four out of five stars

 One of the realities of the world is that there are some children that simply should not remain in the custody of their parents. Almost anything is better than the environment they are living in. Unfortunately, the alternatives that they often find themselves in are not much better. While most have improved from the conditions many years ago, orphanages are still in general rather dismal places. Granted that foster care is generally better, it can often be a stark existence where the child is tolerated rather than loved and cared for.

 The author of this collection of poems had a childhood that was an incident of that reality, and the short segments of verse describe some of her experiences. There is nothing horrific such as an explicit sexual assault documented in this collection, although it is clear that there was the potential. Many of the poems describe an emptiness, the child survives to adulthood, yet the childhood years were not ones of happiness and healthful play.

 For example, the short poem on page 31:

“We carry, like a dead baby, our unfinished love. A thing outlived. Holy. Yet dreadful. Through awkward centuries of November, shapeless days assemble.”

 The poems in this collection are not uplifting, or even a song of triumph over childhood adversity. They are metaphorical allusions to a childhood that is remembered, but not fondly.

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