Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes

BookThug, 2017

Reviewed by Jon R. Flieger

LoveGrove’s greatest accomplishment in the work is the deft blending of the horrifically specific — the details of things gone wrong and the inevitable, self-preserving drawing inwards that accompanies trauma and innocence’s end — with the general wistful dreaminess of yearning. These are poems of the scarred and forgotten who have every right to turn their backs on the world around them and live only within the grey spheres of their distress, yet there is still a gesture towards wanting the colour, movement, perhaps even hope of the dreamworld around them (or the world of memory). It’s a delicate thing, but one she achieves admirably through just the right balance of accessibility and weirdness. We have just enough concrete imagery of foxes, slugs, children, boats, etc. to anchor us through the emotional ranging LoveGrove embarks upon without ever leaning upon the preciousness that dreams, childhood, foxes, boats, and all these poet-y themes tend to evoke.

Because, beautiful or not, the children are troubled:

The beautiful children with pet foxes

are not sleeping well.

Too many shadows bob on the ceiling,

each one urgent and obscene

hissing loose a litany of secrets,

the foxes always keening,

the air too crowded for sleep

to find its way back in. (66)

The collection reads well and quickly. The language is just playful enough to be interesting while never becoming overwrought (extravagant language would kill the atmosphere LoveGrove carefully creates) or banal. There is a strong current of narrative — especially in the longer pieces like the title poem — that keeps the eye moving quickly in this collection. While the dream reports and trauma interpretations can be jarring at first, and a few pieces seem somewhat out of place or haphazard, they too begin to make a type of dream-sense as the reader allows LoveGrove room to explore her interweaving images of childhood, real, unreal, trauma, and confusion.

This review is excerpted from a longer piece published in CV2.

Jon R. Flieger: Previously appeared in CV2. Also in Canadian Literature, Descant, The Malahat Review, filling Station, The Windsor Review, Rampike, The Capilano Review, Matrix Magazine. Anthologized in The Mays collection of the best Oxford and Cambridge writing and appeared on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Has a novel — You Are Among Monsters — with Palimpsest. Works for Biblioasis Press. Is afraid of bees.