Review of Sara Moore Wagner’s HOOKED THROUGH

Sara Moore Wagner. Five Oaks Press, $14 paperback ISBN: 9781944355258

To explain death and love to children, adults often use folklore, myths, fairy tales. In telling these stories, adults teach themselves as well. Hooked Through is a mother’s beautiful, emotional, and at times grotesque attempt to explain the suicide of a close family member to her child and herself. This short collection is full of deep, mysterious grief. Reading these poems truly makes you feel hooked, lifted, and raw.
     The collection begins with a narrative anchor in “Like a Fish”, where the speaker is in the hospital with a loved one who has recently shot himself. Suddenly the wound becomes visible behind the bandage, but the speaker must ignore this ugly reality and instead tell the nurse a story:

He hammered my mother’s
wedding ring out of a quarter,
I say, because I don’t know
what to look at. Too many
rings and hooks. Too many.

Death turns us all into fishes,
green and gasping.

     Some of these poems go down the rabbit hole to make sense of violence and loss. They work through an interior emotional logic. Many occur in the world of animals (and, of course, in this world, many of the animals speak).
     Some of the most moving poems are the ones that use surreal imagery to teach; for example, “On Selfishness”:

            Once upon a time, there was a girl
            who thought this world would be better
            looking if the people she loved were turned
            into paper birds and suspended from the sky.

     This poem examines the fraught relationship between finding beauty in suffering (including the suffering of those you love) for redemptive reasons versus selfish reasons. The whole collection explores this tension between wanting and not wanting to find poetry in pain—but ultimately needing to.
     After many poems of intricate imagery about pain and loss, the book concludes with “Until I Learn to Let It Go”, which explores the deep difficulty of letting go of people, pain, life, and stories, along with a promise that the stories will go on.
     These are powerful, painful, and beautiful poems about coming to terms with losses beyond our control. (February 2017)

Purchase Hooked Through HERE.

Reviewer bio: Ivy Grimes' work has appeared in Salt Hill, PANK, Weave, The Offending Adam, and elsewhere. To read more, please visit