I picked up Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's collection of poems as an afterthought. I needed something to read quickly while waiting for a friend and Slamming Open the Door was a new book on display at my library. What I saw was a slim volume of poems, a cute ladybug on the cover, and a poet I had never heard of. I grabbed the collection and started reading. It took no more than the length of the introductory poem, "Death Barged In," for me to realize this was no ordinary collection and I had just entered a powerful place of sorrow and loss.
Here is what you need to know: Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's 21 year old daughter, Leidy Bonanno (nicknamed Ladybug), was murdered on July 7, 2003. The police entered her apartment and found her dead; she had been strangled with a telephone cord. Her ex-boyfriend was later charged and found guilty of her murder.
After July 2003 these have become the essential facts of Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's life. Through her poems we are given a glimpse into the grief that the loss of a child brings. Her language is compact, concise; never flowery or overwrought. The image of death "in his Russian greatcoat / slamming open the door / with an unpardonable bang" who "stands behind me / clamping two /colossal hands on my shoulders" will resonate with many who have felt the heavy weight grief.
I think of Slamming Open the Door often, and not morbidly. The power of this collection is that the poems manage to be beautiful in spite of the tragedy they convey. The American poet Thomas Lux hits the mark with his take on Bonanno's collection, "How does one say I love this book, which I wish never had to be written? Only one way: I love this book. I wish it did not have to be written."
Submitted by Kristina@ MPL Central