It is a testament to the author’s skill that she can write a modern love poem that is moving yet not maudlin, in the same way that she can depict personal tragedies again and again without undermining the speaker’s emotions or rendering them as overwrought.
The activity of the poems takes place at funerals, or on vacation, at an air show, at a national park, volunteering in a meal delivery program, or in the aftermath of a tornado…Slaughter’s poems are conspiratorial with the reader. You know, that too-full feeling. Pleasure, for Slaughter, comes double-edged with warning.
…this collection raises essential questions about the nature of our personal lives: Who are we within them? How do we reconcile our expectations for our lives with what we find to be our reality? It is the examination of these questions that reveal Slaughter’s poems to be as emotionally astute as they are beautifully crafted.
—Tina Mozelle Braziel
Early in her new poetry collection, Lauren Goodwin Slaughter speaks of “the necessary oomph.” Which is also an excellent way of describing the pizazz of this wonderful book. Though titled a lesson in smallness, Slaughter’s language is large, attentive, loving, and dynamic, even while acknowledging that our connections to others—in this case, as wife, mother, daughter—sometimes require a steep mortgage on a woman’s most intimate and individual desires. I love this book’s truthfulness and clarity of vision, and I’m betting you will, too.
a lesson in smallness is a book seized by hunger and the umbilical. It is at once a travelogue, a junk drawer, a menu, a romance, an anti-romance, a cultural inquiry, and a mystery, which is to say it is fascinating and not at all aimless but deft, meticulous, and at the same time lavish. It proceeds by pleasurable and painful tension and release to a Rilkean abundance. The sensational third section of the book is an eruption into Slaughter’s full powers of language in the service of transport. The “smallness” is a modest way to say her acts of attention expand our sense of what is possible. It’s a beautiful [and dangerous] debut.
a lesson in smallness is an invitation that builds—word by shiveringly, perfectly placed word, cadence by subtle, breath-catching cadence—into shifting vignettes, vistas, vision. Vastly imponderable, and also close, and cherished: nature and human nature and the nature of art, all at once in these moving poems. A book to read and read again.