ANC035: Becoming by Laura LeHew
I wake up in the middle of the night / my sister, Karen, stands in the darkened kitchen / fully dressed, hands in her jean pockets, swaying back / & forth back / & forth like a wraith // I ask her why she didn’t wake me / & she says I don’t know—am I awake
The last poem of this collection asserts that “…the past is the answer not / worth pursuing.” But the startling and moving poems that precede it prove otherwise. In Becoming, Laura LeHew has pursued the past, delving into a family history replete with the catastrophic effects of alcoholism. Using innovative forms and vivid imagery, LeHew’s work poignantly evokes the devastation created by an alcoholic sister, mother, and father. These poems tell a powerful story—one both provocative and wrenching.
—Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita
Through finely crafted formal innovations and an unflinching focus on the realities of alcoholism, dementia, and the precarious pathways of family histories, Laura LeHew reminds us that poetry is one of the surest ways to fully inhabit our lives while grappling with realities that unsettle the mind and soul.
—Ce Rosenow, author of Pacific and Spectral Forms
Rather than portraying family as the mythological unicorn we wish it to be, Becoming is the poetic equivalent of an antithetical Brady Bunch. Full of fracture, dementia, multi-generational substance abuse, and violence, Laura LeHew’s poems wrench family damage from shadows and whispers directly onto center stage. A poem in the voice of sister “Karen,” relates: “Once he fuckin’ broke the door down / pulled the phone off the wall / while I was callin’ the cops. / Remember? // Like dad did that one time when he was so pissed at you?” Heartbreak, rather than sentimentality, is woven into the tightly crafted fabric of the verse, as well as the organization of the collection, with found journal-entry poems, non-sequential ordering, and this solemn profound couplet from penultimate poem “Mother’s Day”: “& the past is the answer not / worth pursuing.” As dark as the reality of Becoming is, the journey is redeemed by unflinching examination, moments of unwavering generosity, and the faithful testimony of survival.
—Lana Hechtman Ayers, author of The Dead Boy Sings in Heaven