'wonderful...true and honest'

Written by Rooja Mohassessy for The Adroit Journal on Monday, January 24th, 2022

The splendid feat of this novella in verse is partly owed to the virtuoso craft of the poet. Small details here show mastery, such as the elevated choice of diction and rhythm in the voice of Burns and the almost colloquial tone animating the disturbing character of Douglas. But I believe the collection owes its wonderful cohesiveness, the true and honest note it sounds, to its very source of inspiration. As the drama unfolds, we sense the author-poet addressing her own white ancestry, as if out of a desire to hold it accountable for the wreckage she has inherited. McCallum’s own history and heritage are complex—a Black woman inhabiting a white body crossing cultures and borders. In the essay, “Through a Glass, Darkly,” which appeared in the autumn 2020 issue of The Southern Review, she offers a window into the world and influences that shaped her, and how she has grappled with a world which still refuses to see her.  

McCallum teaches us history is ours to resurrect, converse with, and align as near to the truth as best we can. How telling that a fictive history can ring so true! This is a collection where not only the poems, but the timeline, the Dramatis Personae, the author’s notes, and the acknowledgements all call on us to attend, each a part of the intricate narrative, each contributing to the awe we experience at what McCallum has accomplished here in sixty-some pages.