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Poetry. Women's Studies. In 1650, in Massachusetts, a woman was falsely accused of killing her friend's child. She was immediately tried and soon hanged. THE SHAPE OF THE KEYHOLE examines a community's fear-driven silence and envisions the innocent woman's days as she awaits her execution.
This stunning book-length poem creates, from a brief account in colonial American history, an expansive collage of 'dislodged sentiment, fragmented scenes, churned-up voices.' Denise Bergman renders the arrest, trial, and execution of a falsely accused woman in cinematic slow motion and spare lyrical language, heightened by recurrent metaphor and contrapuntal wordplay. A rush of voices speeds up the motion before the final scene, inviting questions of guilt and culpability that are disturbingly relevant to the injustices of our own time.--Martha Collins
Denise Bergman's compelling new collection, THE SHAPE OF THE KEYHOLE, gives testimony to prejudices, false rumors, mutable scraps of damning evidence that wrongly condemn a woman to die by hanging. Here there is no restorative justice, only questions that singe through to a hushed past: 'Why does no one ask why // she killed a child / would want to kill / a child / that child // could she not stop herself.' In a style reminiscent of cubism and Stein, Bergman's fractured, repetitive language and succinct imagery recreate a sequence of voicings that imprint indelibly on the consciousness of the reader where 'Silence snatches the best view of the finish line.' THE SHAPE OF THE KEYHOLE shines a clarifying light into the dark, unsparing nature of humanity.--Dzvinia Orlowsky