Sunday, March 24, 2019




In Lee Varon’s first chapbook, Letters to a Pedophile, she creates a true relationship between the abused and the abuser. It is complicated and Varon expresses that complication through images and line breaks. Her poems are formal—they are written in a series: the title is also the first line and they all attribute to you—the receiver of the message. This pattern is very insightful. She is showing the reader a sense of compulsion that is a symptom of the you in her book. This makes the poems even more heartbreaking and at times we feel sympathy as she humanizes the you:

I was desperate
to guard my own light.
I could never have stopped

on the highway
even if I saw your thumb
raised, even if I saw

the shattered stars at your feet.

Her repetition of the word small and images of small is impactful. “children sprouted like mushrooms / soft and combed inward;”, she never states fact but abstracts the ugliness of her concept and makes it into beauty—devastating. At some points Varon is speaking as a child, “as if we were going to a good day at school / and subtraction was just math…”, and others she is speaking as her present-day self in recollection. “…a wafer near nothingness.” when describing memory. This back and forth strengthens the series making the reader trust the poet as she guides us through the chapbook— she knows without abstractions it would be too disturbing of a text for some readers, but by using the form of poetry we let go of the unbearableness of the subject. Varon has written it in a way that lets the subject become bearable. The chapbook is the fluidity of self and how many ways one can look at trauma. Varon takes trauma and shows us through poetry how to survive it:

I thought it was only a matter of
packing different clothes,
diverting a tornado,
breathing the correct number
of rescue breaths against blue lips.

Letters to a Pedophile is a stunning collection. You feel the truth and pain it took to write each poem. Art is how to transform trauma. Varon shares with us a topic that is hard to face. She has shown us how she processes trauma by using the technique of poetry. She has made this subject not only approachable, but brilliantly moving.

Alexis Ivy is a 2018 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Poetry. Her first poetry collection, Romance with Small-Time Crooks was published in 2013 by BlazeVOX [book]. Her second collection, Taking the Homeless Census won the 2018 Editors Prize at Saturnalia Books and is forthcoming in 2020. She is a Street Outreach Advocate working with the homeless and lives in her hometown, Boston

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