“View from True North” by Sara Henning
A finalist in the High Plains Book Awards’ Poetry category, Sara Henning’s “View from True North” guides the reader through a family’s suffering stemming from grief commonly associated with PTSD, Alzheimer’s, and substance abuse. The poetics demand empathy, whether for a widow grieving her husband’s suicide, or a granddaughter helplessly watching her aging grandfather slip further into confusion and violence. Lines like “Until trespass is beauty, the body / does not end. Suffer us its recklessness,” truly help to inflict the speaker’s pain upon the reader.
Henning’s strongest poetics are when she explores the body and nature. The speaker makes understanding the pain of Alzheimer’s accessible for all those involved. This naturalist approach examines personal details of those connected to uncovering a loved one’s dark secrets, hidden throughout life from his family, only seen through death.
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An additional common motif of “View from True North” is the body’s sense of touch. Henning describes touching erogenous zones, particularly sexual provocations of grabbing, holding, and pulling wrists, as “I read / in his body, his fingers on my wrist / now, his touch its electric tail.” She uses strong visceral imagery and sensations to cause the reader to feel what the speaker feels.
Bluntly, Sara Henning’s “View from True North” demonstrates the worst parts of suffering and gives the reader an insight of genuine anguish felt by a family. Not many authors can connect to their readers in such a way. Henning deserves a finalist spot from the active poetic techniques that reveal mastery in her craft.
Patrick Michael Landry holds a B.A. in English and Creative Writing and works at the Billings Public Library.