Young at the Time of Letting Go by ​Lilace Mellin Guignard

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With deep wisdom and startling vision, Lilace Mellin Guignard encounters the natural world—caterpillars, newts, glaciers, the human body—as signposts and companions on this passage through loss. Hiking in a “transition forest,” she writes that her mother is “everywhere and/I’m alone,” illuminating the paradoxes inherent in mourning. In fact, the entire world is transformed by it. A swallowtail becomes “a barrette a mother might place/in her daughter’s brown hair.” “We’re all related by loss,” she tells us, of her brothers and herself, at the same time revealing over and over how grieving draws us all into one family. —Judith Sornberger, author of Wal-Mart Orchid and Open Heart

These poems ache with the passing of a mother, a way of life that was ordered and understood. I watched as this matriarch rose off the pages to haunt, cherish, and need the daughter who was left behind—this poet who believes in redemption. How else could these poems have been written? Lilace Mellin Guignard’s poems make me grateful for the narrative form. In her hands, they sing of grief’s distant reflection—in the birds, the ice, and the marsh—and the scarce seeds of renewal. Shaun Griffin, author of Bathing in the River of Ashes and Anthem for a Burnished Land

“Without beauty, death seems so close,” writes Lilace Mellin Guignard in her chapbook Young At the Time of Letting Go. Having let go of both her mother, who was diagnosed with breast cancer while the poet was in her teens, and her father, who died shortly before the death of his wife, Guignard has witnessed, and given powerful voice to, the gradual diminishment that cancer, not to mention death itself, brings. And yet, these losses continue to re-awaken her poet’s passion for beauty, the sheer, utter necessity of it. “Now twice that age, I’m over the horror of being sixteen/and seeing my mother lose her hair,” she begins, in one of her most memorable poems, her language deftly threading its way through the sorrows that could have left her tongue frozen to the cold latch of grief. We follow her words, their urgency and precision, as she navigates her journey through grief, coming at last to the realization that “What matters is … sun that seeps past hurt. Only through living can we begin to save another.” Kathryn Stripling Byer, author of Wildwood Flower and Descent