What readers are saying about Friend, Pauletta Hansel’s latest book of poems from Dos Madres Press.
Has there ever been a better time for the epistolary poem? These, by Pauletta Hansel, begin by asking, “Friend, do you believe kindness/is enough?” Nearly every poem here addresses a distant, anonymous friend, and their contrapuntal structure implies, on its own, call and response—heavy on the call, perhaps, like the red phone ringing through a dream. Hansel asks difficult questions in these poems (“Do you remember/when the only thing asked of us/was to keep our breath at home?/Even that was more than we could give.”). Her willingness to explore the newly unfamiliar world’s responses is, ultimately, what gives us hope. Answers come in the sudden flash of a hawk, the literal fish out of water, the chalked sidewalk message, already fading: “We will be OK.”
—Paula J. Lambert, author of How to See the World (Bottom Dog Press)
“With every curse a little blessing,” Pauletta Hansel quotes in her chapbook Friend, a collection of epistolary poems written during the first six months of the pandemic. The centerpiece of this collection is a collage that encompasses botany, science, and the history of an invasive species. This is a masterful collection that moves from the wildlife markets of Wuhan to the streets of Ohio. It isn’t easy to find affirmation in the midst of loss, and yet Hansel finds blessings by recognizing the things that we have always had—friends, family, and “the ordinary miracle of rhizome and bulb.”
—Cathryn Essinger, author of The Apricot and the Moon (Dos Madres Press)
Pauletta Hansel’s Friend is many things: a sequence of epistolary poems, a “brief abstract and chronicle of the times” as Hamlet called the work of his actor friends, a literary artifact capturing the Coronavirus era and so of historical interest in the future. Along with all of those, it is a caring testimony to absent friends and family, to a loyal husband, to the rejuvenative powers of nature, even in the city, and a grudging paean to walking. We will not recover fully from our time of plague and presidential cruelty, but these poems attest to resiliency, to the power of community, and to the soul of art. We must thank Pauletta Hansel for the courageous attention she has paid.
—Richard Hague, author of Studied Days – Poems Early & Late in Appalachia (Dos Madres Press)
A review by Bonnie Proudfoot can be found here.