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Morris, K.L. (2009). Fallout. By Fred Feirstein. Cincinnati, OH: Word Press, 2008.. Psychoanal. Rev., 96(5):857-860.

(2009). Psychoanalytic Review, 96(5):857-860


Fallout. By Fred Feirstein. Cincinnati, OH: Word Press, 2008.

Review by:
Karen L. Morris

Fallout, Fred Feirstein's new collection of poetry written before, during, and after 9/11 opens with an epigraph from Aldous Huxley in which he warns, “Don't read the newspapers.” Truth as a compilation of facts and “just the facts” is never found in newspapers. We know from reading history handed down through the unknown poets of the oral tradition whose voices continue to resonate over time finding us in the middle of our own stories, that it has always been the poets to whom we turn for the real news of the day as we endeavor to interpret, contain, and survive reality. Read as “the news of the day,” this collection of Feirstein's poems represent a foray into danger zones where private life is indistinguishable from the historic. Structural aspects of trauma are evident in the arrangement of this book into four sections of poetry with an afterward, in which Feirstein discusses his personal poetic process in intimate detail, exposing other levels of depth in the poems. Time and memory as characteristics of traumatic form are encountered in the first section of poems written before 9/11, as traumatic events yet to come are foreshadowed through the “before” and “after” dialoging between poems. “Smoke from the burning borough of the Bronx” ends the poem “To My Younger Self,” which begins with the lines,

The past is like a library after dark

Where we sit on the steps trading stories

With characters we imagined ourselves to be.

This poem plays with time as if the arc of events were itself sentient, reflective of the back and forth characteristics of sequential memory, where disasters in the speaker's immediate environment mirror the events of 9/11 to come, and which constitute the middle section of the book. However, the reader has already entered this poetic narrative through the first poem, eerily titled “What Happened,” in media res, literally “in the middle of things,” the device used by poets, including Homer as they translated poetry from the oral tradition into the earliest written forms.

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