by Sara Henning
Southern Illinois University Press, 2024
eISBN: 978-0-8093-3929-7 | Paper: 978-0-8093-3928-0
Library of Congress Classification PS3608.E564536B87 2024
Dewey Decimal Classification 811.6


A lyrical meditation on time, survival, and merciful moments of joy 

Sara Henning’s Burn draws readers deep into the moments that make us, focusing on instances of crisis and renewal to explore our relation to time and lived experience. In these poems, we follow a speaker as she works through the loss of young love, the death of her parents, marriage’s hardness and beauty, sexual assault, and the devastation of a pandemic—evolutions of trauma that fracture time and alter perception. Twinned with these extremes are shimmering manifestations of joy only an imperfect world can make possible.

Burn magnifies the way time leaves us both the victim and the victor of our realities. The blaze of her late-mother’s Tiffany lamps sends the speaker back to childhood, where she unearths mica from the schoolyard dirt. The devastation of an ecological crisis, the annihilating act of rape, and the unsolved disappearance of a caretaker all level the speaker’s world and upend her place in it, forcing her to reconstitute reality from what remains. In poems which summon the spirit of Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, this collection walks through the physics of temporality as refracted through love, loss, and grief, so we better understand its effect on our lives. Through this insight, Henning introduces a new way of being in the world.  

A work of advocacy and uplift, Burn shines with the vibrant possibilities of narrative lyric poetry as it forges a path from grief to hope.