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Temper by Beth Bachmann

Temper by Beth Bachmann is a poetic page-turner, grabbing the reader at the first verse and refusing to let them go.  It tracks the time and feelings the speaker has after the death of her sister.  It flows in a storytelling manner, an especially good read for people who don’t normally read just collections of poems.

The poems themselves are beautifully written, with interesting illusions.  Bachman’s habit of dividing the poem into groups of two lines provides an interesting reinforcement for the relationships the book focuses on, between the speaker and her sister, the speaker and her father, and the sister and the father.

One of my favorite poems was “First Mystery of My Father,” because she ends talking about how Eve saw her father naked and felt ashamed.  It was a creative way of addressing her feelings about learning details about her parents that she might not has wanted to know, addressing a sort of universal feeling against knowing all the sordid details of one’s parent’s past.

I like her title, as temper can refer to anger, and crimes of passion, which could have led to her sister’s death.  However, temper can also be a state of balance, or a way of softening something, which would imply her father wasn’t responsible.  This ambiguity over whether her father is guilty persists throughout the poem, and helps give us access to the speaker’s feelings, as she herself doesn’t know.  Overall, the book was one of the most gripping poetry books I’ve ever read.