A Different Distance: A Renga

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Told in conversation, the sequence of poems in Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Nair’s A Different Distance: A Renga are small, intimate glimpses into the friendship the two women share and their struggles to navigate the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While they both reside in Paris, the poems are written as a conversation across a much greater space. The feeling of alienation and isolation each poem describes will be familiar to those who sheltered in place during the early days of 2020, especially those who faced health challenges like Nair did in her battle with cancer.

The structure of the book is a back and forth of poems—one by Nair followed by one by Hacker and so on from beginning to end—and the writers’ voices are distinct enough that they would be discernible even without the change in font color. Nair’s poems appear in red; Hacker’s in black. What is troubling about the book is also what is brilliant about it: the reality of the pandemic is ever present in these pieces written between March 29, 2020 and March 31, 2021. If you struggled and felt afraid, alone, or siloed during that time, this book will be challenging for you.

But, there is a joy and a comfort in these poems, too. In their connection and communication with each other, Hcker and Nair manage to find a new means of togetherness that may not have emerged without the necessity for it. A Different Distance: A Renga, then, is a reminder of our potential to be together, if only in spirit, when the physical option is taken away.

Reviewed By:

Author Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Nair
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 96 pages
Publisher Milkweed Editions
Publish Date 14-Dec-2021
ISBN 9781571315519
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue March 2022
Category Popular Fiction