A Fine Yellow Dust by Laura Apol
Published by Michigan State University Press, 2021
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
In 2017, Apol’s 26-year-old daughter took her own life. Having spent a decade running workshops on the merits of healing through writing, she suddenly found herself having to follow her own advice in order to make it through the pain. Chronicling the year immediately following her daughter’s death, this collection explores the complex mix of anguish, guilt, fury, and hope that typify the grieving process. With her stark honesty, Apol also aims to break down the stigma of discussing mental health, trauma, and suicide, so that others may be spared the same fate.
The very nature of the subject matter means the book can be hard going, and though Apol’s style is very accessible, the collection is probably best absorbed when tackled in short bursts. As pointed out by Apol herself in the afterword, the early poems, written in the immediate aftermath of her daughter’s death, are short, intense, and straightforward. From a craft perspective, it is interesting to watch the quality of the writing and imagery develop over time, as she increasingly finds the language to discuss her situation.
Despite the tight thematic focus, the collection never feels repetitive. Apol regularly employs strong though easy-to-dissect metaphors, and hits you in the gut with lines of simple beauty: “All day, I circle / the space in me / that was her.”
Also discussed in her afterword, I greatly admire the motivation behind Apol’s decision to make these pieces public. They serve as a eulogy to a multi-faceted, much-missed daughter, and are sure to resonate with anyone who has experienced sudden loss – particularly to suicide. Her depiction of pain and fierce love (the likes of which can become so difficult to see in others when we’re on the brink) may also act as a lifeline for those who need it, inspiring them to hold on and reach out for help.
Thank you to the publisher for a free advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.