Posted by: jeannineatkins | April 24, 2015

Deborah Gorlin Reads from Life of The Garment

Way back when I was an undergraduate at UMass, I used the long-standing perk of being able to take courses at area colleges to register for “The Religious Novel.” This was taught at Amherst College by visiting writer Mary Gordon, and I met Deb in the back row by the windows. Sometimes after class we’d walk across the common and discuss books, religion, and probably Mary Gordon’s haircuts and what she wore.

On Wednesday night, Broadside Bookshop was filled with others who’ve enjoyed similar conversations, sometimes, I expect, between the shelves of that very shop. People who know Deb Gorlin as a friend, professor at Hampshire College, or poetry editor at The Massachusetts Review were excited to celebrate her new collection, Life of the Garment, which won the 2014 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize from Bauhan Publishing. The publisher of that small press was in attendance, which my husband pointed out when I told him, must be pretty rare and cool. And they clothed the poems gorgeously.


This new collection follows Bodily Course, and while Deb never moves far from the physical world, she pointed out a few marks of the transition from a reverence for bodies to the garment as metaphor, the ways we’re shaped by forces such as family, geography, and history. It was wonderful to hear her read with her trademark humor and intensity, adding a few remarks between poems. And I enjoyed the hearty applause at the end, with a small girl in the row ahead of me, who surely isn’t the intended audience but who clearly loves Deb, beaming as she clapped on and on.

I’m happy now to spend some time alone with Life of the Garment. We still get news of the body, with poems dedicated to tears, fat, and a mystical manicurist. We can’t make sense of garb without something underneath. We get an ode to shopping, another on yarn, cars, trees, parents, and animals, with perhaps more on religion, particularly in its guise of gratitude, and varieties of idols and dolls. I love the stunning title poem with its references to the Textile Conservation Department at the Holocaust Museum. I’m eager to read more of these tributes to a world that’s beautiful and true, inside and out, and I hope you read them, too.



  1. I would love to read Deborah Gorlin’s title poem.

    P.S. So happy to see Little Woman in Blue at the top of your book column!

    • Sarah, it is a beautiful poem, and I’ll make sure it gets to you.

  2. Sounds like a stunning body of work, even for someone who’s not drawn to poetry in the collective. I think I’d like to read this! (Loved that you used her garment metaphor as wardrobe for this review.)

    • Hearing someone read aloud is such a great entree to a collection, so I’m sorry you’re all across the country. I do think you’d find a lot here, Melodye. I like how you know your inclinations, but stay open, too!

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