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I, Afterlife: Essay in Mourning Time

By Kristin Prevallet

[Essay Press, 2007; 2012; 2019]

According to Fanny Howe, “here elegy and essay converge leaving only a sense of the poetic itself to comfort a person facing a catastrophic loss.”

Forrest Gander calls  I, Afterlife  “the quietest and most intimate book by one of our best poets.”

Much admired by her contemporaries for her experiments in poetic form, Kristin Prevallet now turns these gifts to the most vulnerable moments of her own life, and in doing so has produced a testament that is both disconsolate and powerful. Meditating on her father’s unexplained suicide, Prevallet alternates between the clinical language of the crime report and lyricism of the elegy. Throughout, she offers a defiant refusal of easy consolations or redemption. Driven by “the need to extend beyond the personal and out toward the intolerable present,” Prevallet brings herself and her readers to the chilling but transcendent place where, as she promises, “darkness has its own resolutions.”

Reviews

Click here to read a review by Tarpaulin Sky Press

More Reviews

Review by Erik Podhora
In I,Afterlife, the reader is convinced of one’s bodily presence in this world. We know it through our senses. The human actions that we come to after death, like shrine building, attempting to fill space with objects and failing to fill space, and rearranging those objects constantly are the actions that we must use in order to stand in the presence of the void.

Review by Mark Wallace
What’s remarkable about the book isn’t always that it provides new answers to the questions raised both by grief and elegy, but that it asks those questions so honestly and thoroughly, revealing one writer’s focused commitment to never lying to herself even at a time when she’s searching for comfort.

Review by Sarah Sarai
My insomnia lies in the distances of grief, the spaces between suffering. Prevallet understands distances which create the sense of glass. “Language fills in the desire to alter time,” she writes. That’ll have to do for a reason.

Review by Laura Hinton
So the occasion of a death-in-writing and grief as text provides the opposite of a sentiment of melodrama catharsis. It provides a reality – which is always a textual – that compliments, does not assuage, grief. The book opens in a crisp, journalistic prose that compels me to wonder about another’s tragedy – the blood-covered body behind a windshield covered in newspaper – and we are given such “facts.” But “facts” – numbers, Paxil prescriptions, statements by psychological pamphlets designed by government agencies to ease survivors’ guilt — these are not real. They are the appearances of and imitations of a culture obsessed with “Reality” with a capital “R,” a culture unable to face the authentic human experience of illness and death. The plainsong of language in the “narrative” section provides a counterpoint to the rest of the book that will underscore the varieties of grief. Indeed, to continue the music metaphor, grief becomes not one song but an on-going orchestral score, whose infinitesimal movements create a composition in progress: an alternative “text.”