Assistant Editor Amanda McLeod reviews Kate Garrett's 'The saint of milk and flames'

In addition to her forthcoming release with Animal Heart Press, Featured Artist Kate Garrett has a full length collection, The saint of milk and flames, available for purchase here from Rhythm & Bones Press.


Animal Heart Press Assistant Editor Amanda McLeod shares her thoughts on this extraordinary collection:

Kate Garrett's work is well known for its magical qualities and The saint of milk and flames does not disappoint. From the opening poem, the rich lilting quality of Garrett's language is apparent. The collection is a beautiful and sometimes dark exploration of personal history and identity, weaving back and forth between shadows, with reminders that from shadow we can emerge into the light.

The book nods to Garrett's personal history, her formative experiences as a young girl and their impact on her as she grew. The prose poem 'In the brown Camaro' is a haunting, yearning example of Garrett's frank examination of the early influences on her construction of self. She does not shy away from confronting the uncomfortable; weaving through health issues and personal trauma in ways the demonstrate their impact, but keep the reader from losing hope.

On the journey, we are guided through the magical and historical; with nods to myth and legend, and the role of women in these constructs as maidens, mothers, and crones. She leads us through the ancient stories of Medea and Brigid, through the Salem witch trials, to the contemporary and sometimes nameless women that nod today to the past. Garrett's endnotes on the book allow the curious reader to explore these past influences, and doing so adds further dimension and depth to subsequent readings of this work.

The poetic technique in the collection is spectacular. Garrett has a fine turn of phrase and knows just where to break a line with intent; whether to leave the reader questioning, frame a stunning image, grab the reader by the hand and pull them through, or turn on a dime and leave the reader gasping. In Carrying candles she tugs the reader towards the end of the story, rich with double meaning for the breaks; while in A fire moon reflected on the water each line creates its own tiny vision within the overall picture: 
all those black dogs stop howling 
long enough to listen 
to your conversation.
Garrett's gift with language allows her to paint shadowy pictures without using harsh words; when read aloud, her work has a melodious flow that belies some of the stories she tells.

This collection, while deeply personal, explores elements of humanity that many readers will identify with. The stories told here will resonate long after the reading is finished, drawing the reader back again and again to peel back new layers each time.

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