What Sweetness from Salt by Francine Conley
A Conversation with Books 2020 pick! From the publisher: Francine Conley is a sage soul whose richly powerful collection What Sweetness From Salt absolutely wrecked me in the best way, reduced me to a sobbing, open-hearted mess. These poems are so smart, witty, and incisive, and yet the deep gazing both inward and outward, the introspective deep knowing, I almost had to lie on the floor I was hurting and healing so hard. At every turn, I’m impressed by the fluid movement, how Conley places the glass darkly over a mother’s psyche, shining it over the mess of life, the mother’s life—revealing not a binary but a blurring, showing how “There is no better loneliness than a mother’s love.” She writes deftly and achingly of girlhood, motherhood, rife sexual relationships, and the feminine body and its cultural history of being policed, all in such starkly clear lyric, like glass, breakable. Perfect and breakable. This collection’s syntax and sounds, imagery and wit, thoroughly delight me even as it tears me open, exhibiting such exquisite nuance, maturity, wisdom, and play, as in the following passage, which will stay with me as salt sweetening on my tongue: “In time bitch / stuck in my throat like a bone. Stayed like salt / on my tongue. I used to think it tasted different / in every country. In Switzerland salt tasted thin, almost sweet. In Germany; like cake.” Oh, read for yourself, the sweetness this collection engenders.
–Jenn Givhan, award-winning author of Girl with Death Mask and Rosa’s Einstein