Review: Riven

Riven: Poems

“Grief I told you is always, but grieving β€” more often intermittent. “

Riven is a small collection of poetry by Catherine Owen that explores the process of grief by reflecting on nature.

It was a unique collection, and one that I read slowly because I wanted to take time to reflect on each poem. Many of them packed a lot of emotion and feelings into so few words, and rushing through each one wouldn’t give the writing any justice.

Riven is based on the author’s very personal experience of losing her spouse to a drug addiction. Afterwards, she moved to Vancouver, and spent a lot of time along the Fraser River. Her poems blend reflection on her grief with observations of the river, and its surrounding green space.

While reading, I found some of the poems to be centered more specifically on her individual feelings of loss, sadness, and love, where others focused more specifically on the physical environment around her. There were a few that blended elements of both, and they were beautiful. As I mentioned above, I read only one or two poems a day because I found myself re-reading certain lines and really letting them sink in.

The writing was truly beautiful, and I felt that the comparisons helped me, as a reader, feel the stages of grief and various emotions that the author was reflecting on. Yes, there were moments of sadness, but there were also moments of hope, and reflections on what the future would bring. There was a lot of strength in this collection, too.

I’ve seen a couple negative reviews of Riven, and while I don’t agree with them (I really enjoyed reading this collection), I can understand why it’s not for everyone. The writing is extremely personal, and if you can’t relate to the author’s experience, it may be difficult to understand and appreciate the writing for what it is.

If you’re looking for poems that deal with grief and loss, or poems with a strong environmental connection, I’d recommend this collection.

Thank you to the publisher, ECW Press, for an electronic copy of this book via NetGalley. Riven came out on April 14, 2020, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.

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