Henrietta Goodman’s “All That Held Us”

Henrietta Goodman’s new collection of poems, “All That Held Us,” like much modern poetry, is discursive, tangential, elliptical — but hers takes the idea of one-thing-leading-to-another to new formal heights. Each poem begins with a line or phrase from the previous poem, sometimes the last line. The “story” — an ongoing exploration into the relationship between an unsympathetic mother, her icky boyfriends, and an observant girl — propels forward while the poet often looks backward. The effect is mesmerizing, abetted by Goodman’s masterful grace with language. “All That Held Us” is written in rhyme. The whole thing. That didn’t occur to me until I was already 2 or 3 poems in — and I take that as a sign of some sort of language magic afoot.

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