Somewhere Between the Stem & the Fruit by Gwen Frost


Gwen Frost won’t forget, and won’t let us forget. She is fiercely self-examining and self-revealing, admitting her chief fear is “what I am capable of, I am afraid / that I could kill a man, / and I am afraid / that I might like it.” In lieu of this (perhaps understandable) act of violence, she exorcises and expiates through her verse. In the process, she might save us along with herself. She concludes that she “will write one, unshareable poem, / and I will let it die with me, simple and / forever, folded neatly in my throat.” This is her one prediction that we must hope is untrue, for we need her to write many, many more poems, and to share them for many years to come.

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Somewhere between the stem and the fruit is that paradoxical nexus, the point that is both connection and separation, from where you came, to what you are becoming, the scene of the severing, the letting go, the stepping away, the necessary violence and the radical isolation required to be oneself, wholly. And, perhaps, holy. “The poems are written / before they occur to me,” Gwen Frost declares at the conclusion of her shattering first collection. “Something about a scar, something about a hymn.” She says that poetry saved her life, making this volume a document of that on-going process of healing, and a gift and a hope for others on the same journey. Foremost, it is a document of a contemporary young woman negotiating her way through a perilous world. “Turns out, there are a million different ways to kill a girl,” she observes in “Watch,” a poem that references Hitchcock’s advice to “torture the women” in order to make a popular film, and by extension the misogynistic voyeurism that fetishizes violence against women. This book documents more than a few of those ways, and nowhere more chillingly than in the poem “sticking heads in the sand,” in which the query “How was your summer?” follows up almost casually with another question, “What was your rapist’s name?” In the inventory of anticipated experience for a young woman, “summer love and sexual assault / adventures and attacks” go hand in hand, “heads pushed into sand” both an act of violence and an act of willful forgetting.

Somewhere Between the Stem & the Fruit by Gwen Frost
Epilogue BCB