The Renunciations by Donika Kelly

Reviewed by Taylor H (Library Staff)

The Renunciations by Donika Kelly is a powerful book that deals with trauma, heartbreak, and healing. It was a difficult read at times, but the poems in this collection are beautifully written. The poems depict nature and relationships, while also carrying and undercurrent of mythology. The “oracle,” in addition to the speaker and the speaker’s father, is a prominent figure throughout. The poems are divided into different sections: three sections are titled “Now,” one is titled “Then,” one is titled “Then—Now,” and one is titled “After.” This helps a reader move through the collection with a distinct awareness of the timeline.

My favorite poems in the collection include “Dear—” on page 45, “Self-Portrait in Labyrinth” on pages 56-57, “Dear—” on page 76, and “The moon rose over the bay. I had a lot of feelings.” on page 89. I have never read a collection quite like this before. It is a necessary exploration of trauma, and it seems like it may have even been a vessel for the poet herself to start healing. There is pain, struggle, and grief. But the poems are also a story of survival.

A word of caution: Many poems do explicitly discuss the abuse at the hands of the speaker’s father, which could be upsetting for some readers.

Available through the Bridges Library System

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