James Bourey reviews Lindsey Warren's Unfinished Child

Unfinished Child

By Lindsey Warren


Spuyten Duyvil Publishing

Sometimes we read collections of poems and we find a linear approach, almost an arc of a story, one poem leading definitively to the next. We think about it and then decide yep, this is what the poet intended. At other times we find a haphazard scattering of seemingly unrelated pieces shuffled into a pile, bound between covers and given an introduction or a few notes. After we read this type of collection, we may think about it a little longer, wonder if the poet is being inscrutable or was just concerned about putting something together. At that point, we make some sort of judgment call on whether the poems fit together to our liking, or if we feel that the poems are fine and thoughtful and don’t require anything more. And once again, in our moment of omniscience, we decide that we know her intentions. Those approaches won’t work with this mysterious, and at turns, somber or delightful, or both simultaneously, collection by Lindsey Warren.

This book must have been a challenge to assemble for the editors and publishers. We are offered forty-six numbered poems in a table of contents without the numbers, only a listing of first lines or fragments of first lines. Opening to the first poem we notice it has the number 1, it’s a prose poem and it is full of wild, striking images and fine sounds:

I want to return my mother’s cake tin, but she disappeared. I try to

remember how to find her house…maybe, in the eavesdropping rain.

The poem ends:

Dusk’s solutes stutter light in/ the gray world.

We notice, down in the right-hand corner of the page, just above the page number, an instruction; GO TO PAGE 2. We go to page 2 – another prose poem in two sections which begins:

I ask the door to open, one moonish leaf breaks night at my feet.

An unusual image. Another line in the second part of the poem is appealingly strange:

The house’s chicken legs tremble, all the dead leaves in me drop.

GO TO PAGE 3 we are told. On page three we find another prose piece. It ends with

I smell like light

And then, at the bottom of the page –



Choices. Reflection seemed to fit how I felt about this poem. So, I turn to page 8, find another mystical sounding two-section prose poem. The instruction following this poem sends me to page 21. And on it goes. Another poem, more choices or just a single direction. Some of the directions lead us to poe