The year 2020 will rightfully be remembered as challenging. Thus, it’s appropriate that, out of the 50-plus books I read in 2020, the one I found most memorable was Chelsea Rathburn’s A Raft of Grief. The poetry collection, originally published in 2013 by Autumn House and whose title selection originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of The Atlantic, expertly explores complexities of contemporary life and mines the many layers of modern relationships and the resulting and common challenges we all battle, if we’re honest.
In other words, the poems are relevant. Potentially timely, too.
Add accessible to the description as well, as the collection’s various pieces don’t require scrutinization or effort to absorb and appreciate. Sentiments and passages remained with me, which is one of the best hallmarks, in my mind, of any solid written work.
I discovered Rathburn, Georgia’s Poet Laureate, thanks to a Poetry Foundation Poem of the Day email. I quickly snapped up several volumes. The rewards were immediate.
My favorite installment appears early within the collection. The Talker, originally published in The New Republic, recounts an everyday cafe scene, likely similar to an event you may have once experienced yourself. Rathburn’s ability to capture such moments of everyday life and surface the ways we make them memorable and even meaningful are what make her work worthy of your time.