Review by Gabby Gilliam
In her captivating debut poetry collection, Ellis Elliot delves into the multifaceted role of mothering. In her poem “Anthem”, she writes “This is about every mother, everywhere, and the dreadful dark we find ourselves in sometimes,”(57) setting the tone for a compilation that gracefully weaves together themes of trauma and recovery, conflict and acceptance.
The initial part of the collection revolves around Elliott’s stepson, who has special needs. Through her poems, she artfully captures moments of profound connection and pays meticulous attention to detail, provoking the reader to stop and reflect. Each poem serves as a poignant snapshot of daily life, a crystallized moment etched in vivid detail––often bittersweet, yet always deeply resonant.
In the second segment, the collection explores past traumas, such as the experience of enduring an alcoholic parent’s abuse and surviving a physical assault. It also navigates the gradual loss of Elliott’s mother and the fragile hope that “rehearsing lesser agonies might ease the letting go.”(45) These poems contemplate the complexities of motherhood, the right and wrong decisions that shape the children you raise. The poems are both haunting and hopeful, each line edging us toward acceptance of the repercussions of those decisions.
The final poems bring us back to Elliott’s son, Julian, while exploring Elliott’s own faith and whether she still has any after experiencing the trials of both her childhood and parenthood. Elliott tells us that “some stories live in your bones like fire on a North Carolina winter night,” and her poems will do just that, burrow deep within, becoming an integral part of the reader’s emotional fabric, ready to be carried along on life’s journey.
With Break in the Field, Ellis Elliot demonstrates her adeptness at illuminating the complexities of motherhood. With a keen eye for detail and an evocative style, she leaves an indelible impression, inviting us to embrace the intricate tapestry of emotions that define the essence of being a mother.
Ellis Elliott is a writer, ballet teacher, and facilitator of online writing groups called Bewilderness Writing. She has a blended family of six grown sons and lives with her husband and feisty dog, Mabel, in Juno Beach, FL. She has an MFA from Queens University, is a contributing writer for the Southern Review of Books, and an editor/workshop teacher for The Dewdrop contemplative journal. Her chapbook, “Break in the Field” was a finalist for the Two Sylvias Press Wilder Poetry Book Prize
Break in the Field by Ellis Elliot
Old Scratch Press, 2023, $9.99 [paperback] ISBN 13 9781957224121
Gabby Gilliam is a writer, an aspiring teacher, and a mom. She lives in the DC metro area with her husband and son. Her poetry has appeared in One Art, Anti-Heroin Chic, Plant-Human Quarterly, The Ekphrastic Review, Vermillion, Deep Overstock, Spank the Carp, and others. It has also appeared in anthologies from Pure Slush, White Stag Publishing, Black Hare Press, Raven’s Quoth Press, Devil’s Party Press, and more. You can find her online at gabbygilliam.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/GabbyGilliamAuthor.