Elevate Difference

The Butterfly Effect

While reading the first half of Susan Hawthorne’s newest collection of lesbian poems, The Butterfly Effect, I found myself lost in footnotes. Each poem reads on the right page, while footnotes to the poem fill up the left page. Most of the time, the footnotes are as long as, if not longer, than the actual poem. At first, I thought this was a brilliant idea. Then I started to get slightly annoyed by the footnotes and felt that they were a little pompous and unnecessary. How dare Hawthorne interrupt the poetic flow with a useless footnote!

But I re-thought this assertion, and wondered if there are readers out there who are not aware of Sappho, lesbian bar culture, the history of lesbian literature, the lesbian prisoner stereotype or the importance of pool in lesbian culture. My final conclusion of the footnotes is one of intrigue: either Hawthorne uses the footnotes to educate the reader to the purpose of every image that she used. She also uses the footnotes to create a steady pause between each image, giving the reader more time to really think about what she is trying to create.

Either way, footnotes or not, each poem is breathtaking in its imagery, emotionality, creativity and political conscious. The second (and footnote-less) half of The Butterfly Effect stems from the tumultuous emotions brought on by her mother’s death. Hawthorne invites the reader into a twenty page “Dialogue With Death,” recounting the situation surrounding her mother’s death and the aftermath of grief and loss. Hawthorne executes each poem with great style and courage. As a whole, this book of poetry is intended for the smart reader, the emotional reader, the relentless reader and the lesbian who wants to understand the depth of her herstory. The Butterfly Effect is an enchanting collection of profound poetry.

Written by: Chelsey Clammer, May 27th 2007