[09/30/2020] The Lyme Letters by C. R. Grimmer
Texas Tech University Press, hardcover
Publication Date: September 30, 2020
Publisher Marketing: Recipient of the Walt McDonald First Book Award, The Lyme Letters is epistolary verse that spells out a memoir. R, a non-binary femme character, narrates their experience of disease and recovery through recurrent letters to doctors, pets, family members, lovers, and a "Master." R, in letter form and repurposed religious texts, also explores the paradoxical experiences of queer non-reproductivity, chronic illness and disability, and the healing that can be found in the liminal spaces between.
"The Lyme Letters is a tremendous volume of poems that address and evince a fierce epistolary immersed in a reconciling lyric interpolation. There is a framing to the 'dearest,' of addressing life and its emergent needs and figuring opacities thus these poems endure the natural world’s interiority and puncture; the examination of accommodation and ability; the legal language of companion that offers affordances; and all the difficulties and encounters that accompany the spaces and labor of diagnosis, illness, and healing. Grimmer’s world of address is fusing utterance, lyric and amendments, allowing us into language that thinks through the conditions of being in illness and duration. Her prophetic wording into those life-seams of impermeability let us fall into her step, her grace of deep reckoning." – Prageeta Sharma
"The Lyme Letters thrums with the propulsive imperatives of weighted obligations, nimble insights, and precise observations. Seeded with sonic portents and remarkable lyrical textures, this book is spun through with aptitude and integrity." -- Laura Da'
"In The Lyme Letters C.R. Grimmer maps the journey from the asymmetric structures of belief, what it means to believe without being believed, to a delimited freedom ('so much shame at my shame'). Channeling Lilith and Dickinson, Grimmer confronts the problem of names ('Appellation'), for in suffering the bite of a 'beast,' she finds herself fitted with the one-name-fits-all beast(liness). Which she embraces, welcoming both wild (tick, deer, bird) and domestic (cat, dog) life. At the same time, The Lyme Letters is the record of the narrator’s double/even-handed desire for Adamic transcendence ('you Truth me Spirit') and a Lilith-Eve coven, aligned with, as, an animal menagerie. Can one serve two masters? The poems in the middle section, 'Covenant,' attempt to do just that, to displace the coven for husband/doctor/therapist ('I do I do I do I do I do I do I do. I do as he says. I will get better. I am getting better.') while holding back, holding out for the wild ('O, daughter of Ammiel offspring of Emial/ spawn of such animal //be a little ewe & do not try //to tame what rises beneath you, ewe & your waters & //even the ground lying still as you // bite into the wood…'). But by the last section, 'Testament,' a steely armor shields ('queer as two crackers & a carp or so CITY says.') Endlessly inventive, playful and witty, The Lyme Letters refuses the dour face of Lyme, CT tragedy for a woody comic spirit: 'that shameless pink bird, never/ nude & formed to whatever/ in my grasping pink hands/ until i laughed and laughed and laughed/ and couldn’t even swing.'" -- Tyrone Williams
"An extraordinary collection of poems dedicated to the hard work of healing, and the impact of being surrounded by a caring community. In the end, help from others is to help ourselves for 'a story about where to put / my brain & feel my body speak into it.' The poet C. R. Grimmer fills our every thought after reading, adjusting us to a larger lens on the world." -- CAConrad