Remorse Code: Demi-Sonnets by Erin Murphy, selected by Ellen McGrath Smith as Number 15 in the Keystone Chapbook Series:
“The ostensible subject matter of this chapbook is one many of us are familiar with: the adult child’s experience of witnessing a parent’s demise in old age. This book looks hard at a mother-in-law’s ‘last scene in a classic film / frozen on pause,’ while also recalling her unusual upbringing and beginnings of a career in show business (back when they still called it that). It doesn’t fill in all the gaps of the life that comes to an end in the sequence. The form of the demi-sonnet forces an allotment of details, which is part of why the poems have such cumulative power. Blunt, hard facts and details emerge in each seven-line poem: the space around each one is a kind of cushion against the steady beat of mortality. It’s especially impressive that, writing in such a restricted space, Murphy is still able to make sharp turns within the cramped confines of a single line. The result is a humble, wise, compassionate, yet unflinching distillation.”
Publication: May 6, 2018 [100 copies]
Cover image: “Untitled 2015” by C.S. DeBose.
Erin Murphy‘s poems have appeared in such journals as The Georgia Review, Field, Southern Humanities Review, North American Review, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and Southern Indiana Review and have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac. Her poem “Debriefing: A Poem in Parts” won The Normal School Poetry Prize judged by Nick Flynn. She is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Ancilla (Lamar University Press, 2014), and is co-editor of two anthologies from SUNY Press: Making Poems: Forty Poems with Commentary by the Poets and Creating Nonfiction: Twenty Essays and Interviews with the Writers. She is Professor of English and Creative Writing at Penn State Altoona.
You trapped your mother’s black cat
in a cage and presented the armful
of squirming fur at her bedside,
vowing to brush him twice a day
and feed him tuna-flavored treats.
That was her cue. The hospice nurse
said our names. And then we knew.