Red Lanterns

Janisse Ray’s Red Lanterns is a book of witnessing, not only of individual loss of family, friends and lovers through death, distance or fractured relationships, but of our collective ecological losses due to the damage we have done and continue to do to the natural world. The grief expressed in these poems weaves these losses together. “I know even the trees are afraid./ Trees are the earth’s lungs” Ray writes in the title poem before revealing “This week my mother lost her right top lobe/ to cancer.” She doesn’t shy away from underscoring our responsibility for honoring what’s gone and caring for what remains. “What crime did a heron ever commit?” the speaker asks in the poem Sentencing the Heron. Writing about the death of a grandmother in Good Friday, Ray notes “Our sacrifice is to love.” And in response to the question in Rant, WonderFarm as to whether organics will save us: “And I say,/again,/as always,/Nothing. Else. Will.” At a time when “Every day something precious goes up in flames,” this moving collection reminds us about what’s at stake in our connections to each other and to our planet. Red Lanterns is available here.

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