Slamming Open the Door

( 3 )

Overview

Of all the losses we may be asked to bear, the murder of one’s child must be the most terrible. These poems evoke that keenly, seeking justice but transcending judgment as they grieve loss, celebrate love, and find healing.

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Overview

Of all the losses we may be asked to bear, the murder of one’s child must be the most terrible. These poems evoke that keenly, seeking justice but transcending judgment as they grieve loss, celebrate love, and find healing.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Readers will have to step outside of a familiar, comforting tradition of poetic grief while reading this book....To read [Slamming Open the Door] is to stand onstage with a writer who finds herself in the middle of a story in which she has been reluctantly cast."—The New York Times Book Review

"I really love the poems we're about to hear. They're beautifully written. But some of them really hurt. They're about the worst thing that can happen to a mother, the murder of her child."—Terry Gross, Host of Fresh Air

"Written with skill in tight, spare lines without sentimentality or melodrama, Bonanno launches readers through the experience, one that evokes a universal terror...A stunning first book."—Library Journal

“When Emily Dickinson wrote the line 'After great pain, a formal feeling comes' I think she was referring to poems—and the occasions that make them impossible to not write—like these. Spare, unflinching, and powerful, the poems in Slamming Open the Door move me to the bone. How does one say I love this book, which I wish never had to be written? Only one way: I love this book. I wish it did not have to be written.”—Thomas Lux

David Kirby
Readers will have to step outside of a familiar, comforting tradition of poetic grief while reading this book. Here are not the solemn measures of Shelley and Tennyson…There are no high operatic effects in Slamming Open the Door because there's no opera to watch, though there is one to participate in. To read this book is not to behold a completed work but to stand onstage with a writer who finds herself in the middle of a story in which she has been reluctantly cast.
—The New York Times
Library Journal

In her debut volume, Bonanno personifies death as an intruder who insinuates itself into her life after the unthinkable happens, the murder of a daughter at the hands of an ex-boyfriend. Chronologically arranged, almost a novel in verse, these poems are written with startling clarity and precision, telling of a mother's and a family's first worry, the unanswered calls, the frantic drive, the certainty that the killer's face was the daughter's last image, the trial, aftermath, and the final adjustment. "Losing your daughter,/to murder,/requires adjustment," she says. This horror is the stuff of which nightmares are made. It becomes "your very own/annunciation." Written with skill in tight, spare lines without sentimentality or melodrama, Bonanno launches readers through the experience, one that evokes a universal terror. The daughter's death becomes the talisman for domestic violence, for women who must die at the hands of those who feel it is their right to kill them. In one of the final poems, "Ladybug," the daughter's nickname, the narrator "see[s] them everywhere": "Hundreds of them,/shining orange and black,/the dead and the living together-/the living/on the backs of the dead." A stunning first book; highly recommended.
—Karla Huston

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781882295746
  • Publisher: Alice James Books
  • Publication date: 4/1/2009
  • Pages: 80
  • Sales rank: 1,408,792
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno is a contributing editor of The American Poetry Review and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize for two poems from Slamming Open the Door. She currently teaches English and Creative Writing in Pennsylvania.
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Read an Excerpt

From "True Confessions":

Don't pity me:
I was too lazy to walk
up the stairs
to tuck her in at night.

When I brushed her hair
I pulled hard
on purpose
.

And always
the sharp,
plaintive edge
on the rim
of the spoon
of my giving...

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 18, 2009

    Afterlife

    I've just finished reading Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's "Slamming Open the Door." That's not to say I read it in one sitting. The theme--a daughter's murder and its aftermath--is simply too stark and it's told more brutally and more beautifully than I can absorb without coming up for air.

    The poems follow the arc of the crime and its aftermath: the unanswered phone, the false hope, the crime scene--the body. And then the funeral, the tributes, the net that closes so slowly and so carefully around the killer, the trial--and then what can only be called an afterlife for the writer and her family. In the hands of many writers this arc would take us inexorably downward, but not with Sheeder Bonanno. The book's pacing matches the pace of grief itself: soaring pain, tenderness, mundane detail, numinous messages from the natural world, gallows humor--to try to lift her spirits the writer's husband offers her anything that might please her.

    And I say, Okay, I want
    to have an affair,
    or I want a teacup Chihuahua.

    And my husband says,
    Yes, alright, maybe the affair,
    Because dogs are a lot of work.

    There's not an ounce of sensationalism in the story, no-one is spared and almost no-one is damned--not even the killer's son, who travels "on a parallel road / with just a sliver of wind / between" him and the author. On page after page, Sheeder Bonanno honors her daughter with the truth about their relationship:

    Don't pity me:
    I was too lazy to walk
    up the stairs
    to tuck her in at night.

    Such weakness binds the rest of us, saddled with the same failings, to her. We don't pity her. We peer into the room where she's brushing Leidy's hair, pulling a little too hard, or into another room where they're cheek to cheek in an embrace, and it's like we're looking into a mirror.

    Calling these poems cathartic somehow misses the point. There's nothing to learn from murder, and nothing that you can avoid by reading them. They open the door onto the wilderness--the "ever after" that victims' loved ones endure after the final chapter in their story is written or after the final credits roll. But each poem allows us a brief and indispensable glimpse into how an individual human spirit has navigated the worst that fate--or another human being--can inflict. As such each is a point of light, evidence of some kind of resurrection.

    "Slamming Open the Door" is a work of shocking talent and even more shocking generosity of spirit. "Ice Skating" is my favorite poem in the volume: Sheeder Bonanno and her husband, "two pitiable lurchers," are skating where God sent them: thin ice, bad light. They see the rest of us, happy and oblivious, over here where the ice is good, our children skating backwards into the future. And they bless us.

    If that doesn't answer murder, nothing does.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Slamming Open the Door a Marvel

    In Slamming Open the Door, Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno recounts what is surely the most horrifying experience a mother can endure: The murder of her own child. As Bonanno walks the reader through the terrifying yet all-too-familiar details--the murderer was a friend and a doctor, someone usually trustworthy--the reader will find herself gasping as the poems steal her breath.

    The opening poem, "Death Barged In" announces its subject matter in a way so chilling that it may be the single most powerful opening of a poetry book I've ever read. She ends the poem, letting the reader know that Death

    stands behind [her]
    clamping two
    colossal hands on [her] shoulders
    and bends down
    and whispers to [her] neck:
    "From now on,
    you write about me."

    And indeed, Bonanno obeys the command. But that doesn't mean the book has no hope, no grace presented within its pages. In fact, the final poem, "Poem About Light," reminds the reader how impossible it is to "strangle light," as her daughter had been strangled, because the sun is "stubborn" and every morning, "makes its own history."

    Appropriately minimalist in its use of language, the poems resonante deeply with the reader, though they're not particularly innovative in style. I highly recommend this book, as it is both dramatic and touching, honest and gritty. And Bonanno is brave for having written it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Afterlife

    I've just finished reading Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's "Slamming Open the Door." That's not to say I read it in one sitting. The theme--a daughter's murder and its aftermath--is simply too stark and it's told more brutally and more beautifully than I can absorb without coming up for air.The poems follow the arc of the crime and its aftermath: the unanswered phone, the false hope, the crime scene--the body. Then the funeral, the tributes, the net that closes so slowly and so carefully around the killer, the trial--and then what can only be called an afterlife for the writer and her family. In the hands of many writers this arc would take us inexorably downward, but not with Sheeder Bonanno. The book's pacing matches the pace of grief itself: soaring pain, tenderness, mundane detail, numinous messages from the natural world--and gallows humor. To lift her spirits the writer's husband offers her anything that might please her.And I say, Okay, I wantto have an affair,or I want a teacup Chihuahua.And my husband says,Yes, alright, maybe the affair,Because dogs are a lot of work.There's not an ounce of sensationalism in the story, no-one is spared and almost no-one is damned--not even the killer's son, who travels "on a parallel road / with just a sliver of wind / between" him and the author. On page after page, Sheeder Bonanno honors her daughter with the truth about their relationship:Don't pity me:I was too lazy to walkup the stairsto tuck her in at night.Such weakness binds the rest of us, saddled with the same failings, to her. We don't pity her. We peer into the room where she's brushing Leidy's hair, pulling a little too hard, or into another room where they're cheek to cheek in an embrace, and it's like we're looking into a mirror.Calling these poems cathartic somehow misses the point. There's nothing to learn from murder, and nothing that you can avoid by reading them. They open the door onto the wilderness--the "ever after" that victims' loved ones endure after the final chapter in their story is written or after the final credits roll. But each poem allows us a brief and indispensable glimpse into how an individual human spirit has navigated the worst that fate--or another human being--can inflict. As such each is a point of light, evidence of some kind of resurrection."Slamming Open the Door" is a work of shocking talent and even more shocking generosity. "Ice Skating" is my favorite poem in the volume: Sheeder Bonanno and her husband, "two pitiable lurchers," are skating where God sent them: thin ice, bad light. They see the rest of us, happy and oblivious, over here where the ice is good, our children skating backwards into the future. And they bless us.If that doesn't answer murder, nothing does.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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