Review: The Brief Reincarnation of a Girl

by Sue Goyette (Gaspereau)

In 2006 a four-year old Massachusetts girl died of a drug overdose after being prescribed medication to treat her ADHD and bipolar disorder. A highly public trial followed, in which the girl's parents were convicted of her murder and sentenced to life in prison. Sue Goyette's fifth book of poetry takes this story and runs free with it, leaving us with a very strange poetic rendering of the tragedy. At first, the book-length poem reads like an awkward mad-lib exercise, making bizarre metaphors and clouding the story with a surrealism that is initially impenetrable—the tone seems a bit too silly for its subject matter. But what begins as a book of sparkly surfaces finishes as one with many hidden depths. Through repetition and Goyette's assured voice, the often unusual language becomes very affecting. She manages writing that is both vivid and surprising and maybe even useful: the reframing of this true story offers a new perspective from which to expose and question a medical and court system that failed a young child. A doctor prescribing seroquel, clonidine and depakote to a two-year-old seems no more logical than prescribing unicorns or shovels, as Goyette puts it: "The ghost of the girl hoisted the shovel to show / the jury what had been prescribed to her. She tried / telling them that all she could do with this shovel / was to dig holes she kept falling into." Once the world of this book get a hold of you, its exquisite absurdity will break your heart.

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