“All That Held Us” by Henrietta Goodman
In her latest poetry collection, “All That Held Us,” Henrietta Goodman elucidates the subtleties and complexities of innocence lost.
Rooted in the backdrop of divorced parents, the poems reflect a young girl’s reaction to her new normal. She struggles with confusion, helplessness and resentment towards her mother, father, religion and love.
“Even the virgin birth / just ignorance of sperm and how they move. / Think of the window to a room, not rape, / for once, not rape. He’s climbing in to her; / she’s climbing out—do you conceive? / That’s love” (16).
The collection is broken into three segments, and while each section is filled with various poems, the sections themselves act as one large poem. Each page represents an individual poem, a story that ties to the next – not only in content but by reusing one line from the poem before:
“Think of the window to a room, the space / between her narrow thighs I used to think / meant everyone could tell—the loss like ink, / indelible” (17).
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The poem titles are placed in the header to create a cohesive flow to the poetic storytelling without the reader stumbling over the titles at the top of the poems.
Goodman’s writing isn’t elevated but authentic and unassuming – simple, yet appropriately descriptive, allowing her poems to connect with the reader.
“What did it mean to her to separate / but keep his name? She didn’t date; / she wore his ring, as if she could create from his absence the kind of man she knew / he could have been…” (35).
Goodman’s collection echoes of what holds us all together – love. Love can be anger, pain, fear, joy, life and death. We can see it in a photograph, at our kitchen tables, in our children or reminiscing about the past. Knowing a journey began with love can create a reassuring ending.
Charity Dewing is the senior editor of Special Section publications at the Billings Gazette and an adjunct professor at Montana State University Billings.