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Karen Green: Bough Down
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Karen Green: Bough Down

by Karen Green (Artist)
 

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With fearlessness and grace,Bough Down reports from deep inside the maelstrom of grief. In this profoundly beautiful and intensely moving lament, artist and writer Karen Green conjures the inscrutable space of love and loss, clarity and contradiction, sense and madness. She summons memory and the machination of the interior mind with the emotional acuity of

Overview

With fearlessness and grace,Bough Down reports from deep inside the maelstrom of grief. In this profoundly beautiful and intensely moving lament, artist and writer Karen Green conjures the inscrutable space of love and loss, clarity and contradiction, sense and madness. She summons memory and the machination of the interior mind with the emotional acuity of music as she charts her passage through the devastation of her husband’s suicide. In crystalline fragments of text, Green’s voice is paradoxically confessional and non-confessional: moments in her journey are devastating but also luminous, exacting in sensation but also ambiguous and layered in meaning. Her world is haunted by the unnameable, and yet she renders that world with poetic precision in her struggle to make sense of not only of death but of living. In counterpoint, tiny visual collages punctuate the text, each made of salvaged language and scraps of the material world—pages torn from books, bits of paper refuse, drawings and photographs, old postage stamps and the albums which classify them. Each collage—and the creative act of making it—evinces the reassembling of life. A breathtaking lyric elegy, Bough Down uses music and silence, color and its absence, authority of experience and the doubt that trembles at its center to fulfill a humane artistic vision. This is a lapidary, keenly observed work, awash with the honesty of an open heart.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This poetry-prose hybrid attempts to deal with Green’s husband’s death, flitting back and forth in time as everything in the present dredges up memories of her husband. Scattered throughout are visual poems—images of words cut out, rearranged, and painted over so some can barely be read. These images are small—some literally appear to be postage stamps—and easy to overlook, but they tie into the written passages in subtle ways. Early on, Green lists: “August. Abluvion. Airling. All-overish. I write these words down for later.” About halfway through, in the image that became the book’s cover, words starting with “A” appear in a different font, cut from a different source. On the next page, Green sighs: “No wonder I can’t make out the dictionary’s secret arc.” Words are her coping mechanism, but it’s clear from the beginning that they aren’t enough to convey the depth of her grief. She buries herself in the lives of people around her: a jazz singer, the doctor at the mental hospital, her dogs. The book hints at healing, but with such stream-of-consciousness prose and a traumatic subject, closure may be too much to hope for: Green’s last words on the subject are an abrupt: “I can’t wrap this up.” Perhaps her redemption comes from trying. 53 color illus. (Apr.)
The New Yorker - David Denby
Grief emphatic, grief redeeming, grief protacted, grief abraded all intertwine in this funny, prickly memoir.
Los Angeles Review of Books - Maggie Nelson
“KAREN GREEN’S NEW — and incredibly, her first — book Bough Down, from Siglio Press, is an astonishment. It is one of the most moving, strange, original, harrowing, and beautiful documents of grief and reckoning I’ve read. The book consists of a series of prose poems, or individuated chunks of poetic prose, interspersed with postage-stamp-sized collages made by Green, who is also a visual artist. Collectively the text bears witness to the 2008 suicide of her husband, the writer David Foster Wallace, and its harrowing aftermath for Green. “
The Believer - Andi Mudd
To those who have lived through such a loss, this punishingly tender elegy may have totemic power, but to every reader Green’s empathy, her humor, and her observations—so clear they are nearly hallucinatory—are strong medicine.
Los Angeles Times - David Ulins
This exquisite book is an impressionistic miracle, an assemblage of short text fragments and collages by an artist trying to make sense of her husband's suicide. That this husband was David Foster Wallace is beautifully beside the point, for the focus here is on the experience, the bleak and necessary journey of grief. Green is a pointed writer, open and at a distance all at once. The effect is unsettling, elliptical, necessarily open-ended and at times brutally revealing: a necessary explication of loss as a fact of daily life.
The Improbable - Emily Pullen
That her husband was a public figure (though if you don't know who, don't look it up until you’ve read the book) means that there was a very public reaction to his death. But Bough Down brings to the reader her more private sadness, the complexity of emotion that surrounds mental illness and suicide and grief, the identification and sympathy and anger that she went through trying to figure out what her life might look like after such loss. Green starts simply by observing the materials of her life, of his life, of their lives together. What she ends up giving us is so much more.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781938221019
Publisher:
Siglio
Publication date:
04/30/2013
Pages:
188
Sales rank:
710,319
Product dimensions:
7.60(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.00(d)

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