Selling the Family

Selling the Family by Nancy Kay Peterson

Review by Bill Rector

Selling the Family by Nancy Kay Peterson (Finishing Line Press, 2021) is a book you should buy and read. My review of it will be brief, reflecting Nancy Peterson’s poetry. She writes with Scandinavian sparseness about her family, which is now reduced (and simultaneously enlarged by this book) to her. The cover is a photograph of the auction, set outdoors, in a meadow, of her parents’ estate. The poems are brief and in free verse. Peterson avoids excessive self-pity in the same way she does unnecessary modifiers. She doesn’t indulge (maybe a little) the subjective bleakness of mortality. She likes objects. They are part of her family. It reminds me of the deep relationship between kin and ken.

Here’s one of the poems from the book, titled, “Being Last”:

Imagine being last.
No one to call on Christmas.
No packages under a fragrant pine.

Little but
time to fill
day after day
after day.

Who will buy a coffin,
make final arrangements,
chance upon the writings,
save them for discovery?

My heart knows the work
will be simply discarded.
What stranger would read them,
a lifetime of poems?

Nancy Kay Peterson’s poetry has appeared in print and online in numerous publications, recently in Lost Lake Folk Opera, One Sentence Poems, Spank the Carp, Steam Ticket, and Three Line Poetry. Two of her poems were nominated for The Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook, Belated Remembrance, (Finishing Line Press, 2010) is a series of poems telling the story of her great-great uncle Arne Kulterstad (1825-1902), who was convicted of murder in Oslo, Norway, and eventually exiled to Mount Horeb, Wisconsin. Selling the Family, her second chapbook, relates her experience in auctioning off her family’s estate as the family’s sole living descendant. From 2004-2009, she was co-publisher and co-editor of Main Channel Voices: A Dam Fine Literary Magazine.

Title: Selling the Family
Author: Nancy Kay Peterson
Publisher: Finishing Line Press, 2021
Price: $14.95
ISBN: 978-1-64662-402-7

Bill Rector is a retired physician. He formerly edited the Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine. His publishing credits include a full-length poetry collection entitled, bill, through Proem Press, and five chapbooks: Lost Moth, about the death of his daughter, which won the Epiphany magazine chapbook competition; Biography of a Name (Unsolicited Press), relating the death of Jimmy Hoffa to contemporary American culture; Brief Candle (Prolific Press), a series of sonnets in modern idiom about selected characters from Shakespeare; Two Worlds (White Knuckle Press), relating the transcendent to the ordinary, which the editors called one of the most beautiful collections they have published; and most recently, Hats are the Enemy of Poetry (Finishing Line Press).

Risa Denenberg is the curator at The Poetry Cafe Online.

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