By Amy Billone
Hope Street Press, $6.12, 73 pages
The Light Changes by Amy Billone is a polished collection of raw poems. It is rare that a poet can start a book with jarring, violent imagery, and still remain graceful. Rarer still is it for that book to continue to hold up with the same force while delving into tender subjects such as the experience of an expectant mother and childbirth. The Light Changes may surprise readers who aren’t familiar with Billone’s sharp tongue, clear verse and insight into the darkness of the human soul. Billone begins the journey in a hospital, unconscious, after leaping in front of a train. Not expected to live, she surprises everyone by slowly recovering who she is while at the same time growing further from the young, suicidal woman she once was. Her darkness continues to haunt her, but she learns to live alongside it. Rather than providing a warm host body for it to thrive, she makes a kind of peace with it, a pact to learn what she can from it. While some prefer to read pleasant poems that take them to fantasy places, many will find her work to be exactly what they need to hear in this slim volume. This is a truthful and beautiful account of what it means to be a woman living with all her imperfections.
“I have only this triangle to say everything inside: I ache to invade your heart.”
The Light Changes brings readers along on a journey for reconciliation with one’s past: fathers, sisters, mothers—the choices made out of desperation for solace, those choices that are not small and cannot be undone. It is refreshing to read work that is thoughtful and painstakingly crafted. It is relieving to open a book of poems that do not dally on the minutia but rather grab the reader and make sure that she knows this book needed to happen. It is precisely that kind of urgency that will leave readers feeling grateful that Billone has given them a small window into her journey. It is very much a woman’s journey. In “The Flight Attendant Said,” Billone traces the life of Virginia Woolf to understand the madness of genius and perhaps, to better understand some of her own.
Reviewed by Giovanna Marcus