Review: Our Sudden Museum

Our Sudden Museum

Robert Fanning

Salmon Poetry

The title for Fanning’s new book comes from the poem “Staying the Night,” which witnesses the poet visiting his sister’s house the day after her death. The house is a “sudden museum” in that it represents its former occupant, though the museum is perishable: scents will fade, the produce will need to be thrown out. The poem is a moment of heightened awareness that invests everyday objects with intense significance: “I chose to eat / the peach she chose from the grocery’s / produce rows, not knowing it would outlive her.”

The poems in this collection are museum pieces in this sense. The title object in “The Beam” is from where the poet’s brother hung himself. “Go Ask The Lobsters” considers how to tell children the purpose of the live lobster tank at the grocery store. “Cuttings” observes “my children’s commingled curls” on a porch after home haircuts.

These otherwise mundane objects form a sort of museum of impermanence in that Fanning is struggling with the inexorable march of time. But it’s not all deadly serious. In fact, the persona throughout faces these existential questions with a mix of intellect, dread, and humor, best exemplified by the title of my favorite poem: “A Consideration of Potential Afterlives and the Ontological Interrelations of All Beings at Bedtime, or, The Ladybug Friend.” The poem ends with a child’s eulogy for a ladybug which resonates through the rest of the collection: “We love you. Please come back.”

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