‘this is not a poem/ this is an apology’ is an emotional and lonesome apology for misunderstanding

this is not a poem/ this is an apology

Chapbook, Talie M. Zrihen, 13 pgs, PWYC

Written between 2013-17, these words are letters written to the speaker’s lover, who has taken their own life. Not poems, the title says, but an apology for misunderstanding: “i’m sorry about october. i reached out and when you barely reached back, i thought you needed space, and now you’re so far.” The chapbook ends on this note, having come far enough, across five years, to recognize the situation for what it might have been. A difficult journey, and an emotional read. Zrihen knows this: the jacket’s attribution reads “Sad poems by Talie M. Zrihen.”

It is challenging, and perhaps deeply inappropriate, to review such a personal project on terms of evaluation. The chapbook reflects this difficulty in its construction — the poems themselves are xeroxed over scratched out earlier drafts of themselves, which carry over from the first page to the last, following the folio’s fold. Zrihen’s verse is epistolary, but stylistically reflects the solitude and isolation their poems describe: this speaker wanders, mingles with the effaced versions of their earlier self.

This “apology” is a difficult read for very good reasons. It is worth including the poet’s penultimate note here: “i can’t urge you enough to follow your intuition — reach out to that person you’ve been thinking about — even if they don’t meet you in the same place — don’t sit on your feelings, learn how to express them in was others can understand you better. practice self care and self love — whatever that means for you. open your heart, even if it feels like it’s breaking. That’s just more doors to let love in.” This chapbook is a way for the poet to practice this, their own advice, and maybe to heal.