Elevate Difference

Reviews of Counterpath Press

The Desires of Letters

In 1994, poet Bernadette Mayer published The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters, a collection of loosely structured and un-posted letters written over a nine-month period while she was a new mother in New York in 1979.


With her first collection of poetry, Incivilities, literature and theory professor-turned-poet Barbara Claire Freeman excavates the vagaries of an American narrative—“how it became, what it began,” as one of her poems says. Like men counting bodies on a battlefield, exploding the absurd order of the data they have collected, Freeman’s poems rebel against the aftermath of the atrocities (the title puts it mildly) they insist on recognizing.


It seems like it has become very fashionable for poetry collections to have short and ambiguous titles. We are long past the era where poems’ titles were incredibly detailed, as in “To my Lover, Upon Discovering that I Forgot to Do the Dishes and Churn the Butter. Autumn 1864.” I was drawn to Christine Hume’s Shot because it sounded promising, between the edgy title and the vague descriptions I could find through online previews.