Sorrow Arrow


Sorrow Arrow by Emily Kendal Frey
Octopus Books, 2014. 86 pp.
Reviewed by Sherry Smith

Get a copy of and dive right in. Part dream, part acute observation, and part exploration of the expanse between the two, the poems in Emily Kendal Frey's "Sorrow Arrow" challenge and thrill.  Read singly, each poem is an invitation to ponder and reflect. Reading the book in its entirety is like sailing on a vast ocean, every poem an adventure in itself.

Judith Viorst’s classic psychology book, "Necessary Losses" explores the idea that loss is not only an inevitable part of living, but essential to our lifelong development.  Frey’s poems grapple with how that idea shows up in everyday life, arcing between the sometimes sordid, mundane, details:


"There's an astounding amount of puke on city sidewalks", and

 "When I call an image to mind it's often your wrist and a cheap watch" 


while uncovering the existential mysteries of life, love, and meaning -–


"My relationship to the unknown is in peril"

"I'd like my shoulder to be your dominant archetype"

Kendal Frey uses her craft to great effect.  The language is accessible yet fresh;


"I want to ride out over you like a boat with no legs" 

"The novel I'm reading gives me hurricanes" 


and the juxtapositions, complex -– 


"You sit in your body, quietly making blood/ Wild blood/ Bird of the world" 

"I like her Chevy/I like her not yet extinct" .


Her sense of rhythm is impeccable, as in: "You order a necklace/You order a porno/You're a porno inside a necklace on my neck"; while the use of occasional rhyme builds momentum: "Arrows rain down/In line for breakfast I fuck the ground/I get inside the mailbox and bang around".  

Capitalization at the beginning of each line, minimal punctuation, and spacing on the page create a sense of being both tethered and untethered, which reflects the searching intellect inherent in the poems.

In previous interviews, Kendal Frey described “Sorrow Arrow” as a missive, a letter.  Her book subject may be sorrow’s letter to the world, but the poems are arrows that pierce and delight the reader with their intelligence and heart.


Sherry Smith is a life-time lover of words and poetry.  She is still trying to find the common denominator between an undergraduate degree in music, an early career in corporate distribution and logistics management, and her current profession as a clinical social worker.  Meanwhile, her interests include enjoying ways that poetry can explore and illuminate the human condition and our relationships to ourselves, others, and the world. She is an avid participant in poetry readings and events around the Chicago area.