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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
"Memory, remember or forgotten, lives on / borrowed time." Those are poignant words and so true. We never realize what we really have to remember until it's gone. When we're younger and forget, we joke about it, memory being fleeting even then. But, when we age, and our memory really goes, disappears to the point that we don't even know who we are, let alone where we are or who we are with, the memory becomes a phantom, sometimes there, most times not. Dementia, Alzheimer's, diseases that rob individuals of their dignity, sense of self-worth, and direction in life, all things empowered by memory, even fragments of it. We take it all for granted until it's gone, but some things might remain a little longer, like music, a language, and memory itself: "Her music will be the last thing to go because it is what she knows best."
Diana Howard's chapbook, Winter Solstice: A Memoir in Poetry, is an emotional, heart-wrenching journey of the poet's love as she helps her mother as she slowly loses her memory over fifteen years. Told in narrative verse, often the title is the first line that leads into the narrative. There is joy and sorrow in these poems, as well as a touch of humor, but the struggle to find dignity in this dreadful, mindless disease leads the poet and her mother through periods of denial, confusion, and even shame. The reader senses the deep love between daughter and mother, even as the mother toward the end sanctifies her own degree of recognizing the power of love. No one can feel the agony of not knowing or not being recognized by a loved one – at least not until they have experienced it themselves, witnessed this horrific transition from a vibrant mother to a void of nothing: a black hole that was once an active mind. Absolutely sublime, beautiful, and, yes, dreadful. Thank you for sharing. Love the cover!