Tiny Coffins by Ashley Warren; The Open Books Press, 2018

By Kris Summerson

Our contributor Ashley Warren has a new book out now via The Open Book Press. You can read Warren’s poem “Black Substance” in one of our previous issues; when you read Tiny Coffins, you’ll find out how the poem was transformed in the context of a memoir.

The title Tiny Coffins drew me in immediately, as it paints a curious, yet sad image in my mind. The book, an experimental memoir composed of lyric chapters that read like poems, tells the harrowing journey of a woman watching her mother suffer under the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease. The book portrays nostalgia, pain, growth, and a mother-daughter relationship put to the ultimate test.

Warren’s poem-chapters are full of raw emotion, and often a powerful last line knocked the breath out of me. The narrator’s voice is very frank: it draws you into the conversation and, at times, you almost feel like you’re invading her privacy. But through the words, her pain is your pain. Each poem-chapter bleeds into the next with a flow of a lifetime full of memories, lists of lessons, and moments of pain mixed with solace. 

From beginning to end, the entire book comes full circle in a range of emotions and the story of life. When I finished reading, the only thing I wanted to do was to call my mom, which is a luxury I still have and will cherish.