Phantom Limbs

Poetry - General
120 Pages
Reviewed on 01/27/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Phantom Limbs is a work of collected poetry across themes of trauma, grief, mortality, and overcoming. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience owing to its serious and bold subject matter. Penned by author Deirdre Fagan, this poignant collection navigates the spectrum of human experience from childhood to marriage, divorce, caregiving, and mortality. Fagan's poems are a delicate balance of celebration and elegy, capturing the essence of living despite profound loss. The verses explore the intricacies of survival, revealing moments of unanticipated joy intertwined with heartbreak.

Author Deirdre Fagan adeptly addresses various facets of life, embracing the unpredictability of birth and the inevitability of endings with a provocative, startling, and inspiring level of honesty and bravery. Reading this collection is an emotional journey, as each poem resonates with the universal themes of love, grief, and resilience, and every well-penned verse, grounded in personal encounters, serves as a reminder that even in the face of loss, there is beauty and wisdom to be found. There will be something for everyone in this varied collection. I found that “Call Me Charon” spoke to me, particularly for its intricate storytelling that teeters gently between poetry and prose. I also really enjoyed the bittersweet emotional impact of “Ordinary Sounds”, which really seemed to come alive in the room as I was reading it. Fagan's exploration of mortality and the cyclical nature of existence leaves a lasting impression, offering readers a contemplative space to reflect on their own journeys through joy and sorrow. Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend Phantom Limbs to anyone wishing to explore these complex feelings through the medium of a highly accomplished collection of poetic works.

Pikasho Deka

Phantom Limbs by Deirdre Fagan is a collection of poems that focus on myriad aspects of life, including loss, grief, love, childhood trauma, abuse, the exuberance of youth, relationships, family, marriage, and many more. These poems are brought to life by some mesmerizing lyrical storytelling. Fagan uses her own life experiences to weave a beautiful poetic narrative through her verses. The titular poem "Phantom Limbs" is a reminder of the bigger ramifications that come with the loss of family members. "The Kindness of Strangers" celebrates the little things people do for others to make their lives easier. "Anointing the Dead" is a powerful portrayal of saying goodbye to a loved one for the very last time. The author recounts the joys of finding love again in "Love Begets Love."

Life always has its share of ups and downs, and Deirdre Fagan brilliantly demonstrates this adage with her enthralling poetry collection. The poems in Phantom Limbs are intimate and personal. They manage to tug at your heartstrings due to Fagan's ability to express some of the innermost human emotions in a way that not only is relatable but also deeply moving. The human experiences of loss, love, and hope may differ from person to person but are fundamentally universal. The author primarily uses long, non-rhyming stanzas with structural organization that differs from poem to poem. Above all, there is an intrinsic bittersweet quality to these poems that mirrors the duality of life itself, and no poem demonstrates this better than "The Last Time Making Love." I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it to all poetry lovers.

Jamie Michele

Phantom Limbs by Deirdre Fagan is a collection of the author's original poetry. Each piece is written entirely in the style of free verse, and most take the shape of narrative poetry with a biographical feel, all ranging in tone, tenor, and length. These include works such as The Unnamed War, which reflects on a period of life metaphorically described as a war as it relates to familial and personal strife. The mention of the Persian Gulf War provides a historical context, and the imagery conveys a sense of escape and survival. Most of the Days of the Week has a touch of dark humor, presenting a week of life, from mundane tasks to darker thoughts. It combines routine activities with contemplations of despair, revealing the struggles of mental health and ways of coping with life's challenges. Love at Assisted Living revolves around two elderly residents who form a tender romantic connection, finding solace and happiness in each other's company.

Poetry, like all other forms of art, reads differently to each person. Phantom Limbs by Deirdre Fagan is so deeply personal that it stands out in its raw honesty, and in a rare feat that demonstrates the skill of the poet, every single piece struck a chord with me. I love that Fagan includes a poem describing the very act of reading or reciting a poem in Upon a Poem, drawing parallels between the physicality of love-making and the vocal expression of poetry. Fagan highlights the sensuality and engagement required to fully appreciate and embody the essence of a poem, a courageous inclusion that forces a reader to acknowledge how her work does exactly that. The standout piece to me is Going Hungry, an ode to sacrifice where one's grief is served as a metaphorical meatball to a hungry daughter. It is impossible to deny the selflessness of parenting and the willingness to put aside personal emotions for the sake of a loved one, but to see it in the written word was beautiful. Overall, this is a well-written, thought-provoking collection, and I have no doubt it will touch all who read it. Very highly recommended.