by Larissa Andrusyshyn
(DC Books, 2010)
Larissa Andrusyshyn’s anthology of poems, Mammoth, is not only a powerful and moving tribute to her deceased father, but also a means of probing and analyzing the meaning of life and death itself.
Relying on repeated themes of family, the Ukrainian immigrant experience and personal loss, Andrusyshyn weaves her recollections together by connecting the seemingly fragmented images together through the unlikely use of scientific metaphors – life being examined through a microscope, extinct life forms revived in a petri dish.
This is especially evident in her poems describing her father’s illness and death. It is almost as though by examining this heart-wrenching experience through a paleontologist’s technique of dissecting and reconstructing relics from the past, she can accept the inevitable and come to terms with it. She loses him to death, but revives his memory through her recollections and her poems.
Mammoth is not only a personal exploration of complex human emotions but also an examination of the significance of life itself. It raises more questions than it answers as evident in this excerpt:
“What would you want known about you?
That you invented? Or were kind? Or made at times
a hell of your own planet? (from the poem Voyageur)
Commentary provided by Irene Hordienko, Toronto ON