The writer Joanna C Valente said that “A trauma is a funeral for one; there is no one to mourn you but yourself. The coffin is empty, since you are still alive, but you must fill it with something, and that becomes your former self.”
Or it becomes a book of poems.
Malinenko’s witty, conversational tone keeps Better Luck from veering into weepy sentimentality. When her speaker describes the sonogram of her tumor, it’s “[l]ike the red spot on Jupiter / a hurricane the size of a planet / here now / inside me” — a brilliant use of simile. When she writes of this news sinking in, “I whisper. Fuck. / The smallest hurricane of a word I know,” it’s powerfully restrained.
The reading last weekend went well. I think. I was pretty nervous and anyone who was there can attest to my incessant shaking. I’ve read poetry plenty of times but never anything as personal or as hard as this. I think I underestimated how hard it was actually going to be. I nearly lost it reading the last poem – the title track Better Luck Next Year – specifically on these lines:
and I took the ribbon pin off my bag
because I am not a warrior
or a survivor
but just a young women trying to live with a disease
Specifically the word warrior. The language that we use to talk about a situation – any situation – reshapes it. It frames people’s experiences. The warrior myth – and it is a myth – turns individuals into an amorphous mass stripping them of their unique experience. If you have “winners” then you, in turn have “losers.” As many obituaries read, people “lose their brave battle.” As if I could will myself into better health. As if it were just up to me. That is without a doubt the most dangerous form of magical thinking I can imagine. And it is an aspect of this experience that I feel most strongly about which is why that little word carried so much power.
In the end, I’m sorry I had to write it – that I ever had a reason to write it – but I’m so glad it exists.
So thanks to Kris and Nathan for all their hard work in turning this into a real live book. And if you do get it and read it and have a second to post your thoughts on Amazon or Goodreads, I would be eternally grateful.
Peace, love and starbursts,