Poetry, chapbook, 40 pages, from Bottlecap Features.
This Side of the River is Ilyssa Forman's debut chapbook and takes readers on a journey through landscapes of grief, using the natural world and built environment of New York City as prisms and guides for understanding the speaker's internal state. The chapbook focuses primarily on a break-up and its aftermath as the speaker reckons with the emotional abuse and infidelity that she experienced.
In This Side of the River, the poet and the natural world are mirrors of one another, reflecting the constancy of change and the passage of time. As the moon waxes and wanes, the speaker traverses through different temporal and emotional states, moving in circles rather than in one clear direction. These poems are a meditation on the nonlinear forms that trauma-processing and healing can take in our lives. This Side of the River forges landscapes of grief with fire and water, the earth and moon, a former lover's eyes, New York's cityscape, and wild animals at all stages of life and death.
Underlying this intimate portrait of emotional abuse in a lesbian relationship is a sense of hope and resilience. The speaker becomes increasingly aware of her own agency and recognizes her ability to adapt to change, however catastrophic and violent it may be. She finds peace in the promise of death and in the fleeting nature of all things—including her sadness, anger, and grief.
This chapbook is for anyone who wants to understand what it means to live on the survivor's side of the river.
Ilyssa Forman (they/she) is a queer Jewish poet who calls Brooklyn home. They love their friends, touching trees, drinking coffee, playing guitar (poorly), and their 11-year-old cat Rocky. Ilyssa studied history at Amherst College and currently works for a housing non-profit. They are the recipient of the 2022 Rolfe Humphries Poetry Prize and a 2023 Brooklyn Poets Fellowship. Her work has previously appeared in Lesbians Are Miracles, Dyke Diaries Zine, and Femme Dyke Zine.