Poetry: The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl

Poetry by Sue Goyette, Gaspereau Press, 2015

Review by James Southcott


Sue Goyette’s work has always eschewed easy logical metaphor. Choosing a language that allows the connective tissue between her images to become an intuitive, wry and compassionate examination of how we feel, and why; her work, at the same time, challenges the ways that though classifications can give short-term solutions, frequently lead to challenges along the way. 

The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl is no different. With surprising turns of phrase and juxtapositions both explosive and heartbreakingly sad, each poem feels as alive, fresh and feral as anything Goyette has written. To illustrate: 

The mother upped the dosage of bottle caps
and added some baby Aspirin. The doctor suggested
more conventional medication, the girl sounded bipolar
and should be put on a leash.

In typical Goyette fashion, the metaphors are as blunt as they are inspired.

Also apparent is the danger of logical thought, and the systems that support it. The collection focuses on the true story of a child, whose tragic death was due to parental abuse and an over-prescription of powerful antipsychotics. Above, the mother uses her own brand of, albeit horrendous, but still non-traditional meds. 

However, exposing her daughter to the logic of medical diagnosis provides her abusive behavior not only validity but, even more disturbingly, encouragement. Goyette’s language mirrors that of the girl’s oppressors–a dangerous position from which to write. What saves the work, and raises it above a wrenching political analysis to the level of great art, is the voice of the child. To finish the quote: “What they didn’t know was that the girl had collected enough stickers to reward the universe.” 

If Sue Goyette’s status as champion of startling insight and fearless inquiry hasn’t yet been solidified, The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl is the book to change all that.