Rachel Barenblat has just posted a review of Thaliad at her blog, The Velveteen Rabbi. In it she describes her experience, as the parent of a young child, of reading Marly Youmans' powerful poem of seven children who've survived an apocalypse. She writes:
This is not a poem which shies away from awful realities. There is violence here, and rot, and fear, and cruelty. Fortunately there is also hope, just enough hope to keep me reading, to keep me trusting that somehow, against all odds, this small band of children will survive to begin the world again.
The book is told in the voice of a narrator who was chosen, and becomes a sort of priest, rabbi, wise woman, and keeper of the history:
Emma is anointed, chosen to become the community's bard, "to speak of us in words / translucent to the people," to become "High Storyteller of the fallen world." I love these lines, with their glimpse of how the children in the stolen van must have survived, must have rebuilt. And I love the notion that "catching souls in nets of liturgy" and telling stories clearly are among the masteries which are meaningful and needed by the human tribe, as of course I believe that they are.
Rachel, herself a storyteller and teacher, continued to read, and finally concludes:
The epic poem form is not an easy one, and in lesser hands this audacious project would have failed...but Marly makes it work. The subject matter, postapocalyptic survival, is grand enough to merit the form she's chosen -- and the children's journey is told with deep sentiment but no cloying sentimentality. This is a beautiful and powerful book -- worth owning, worth reading and rereading. I am so glad that it exists in the world and that I can turn to it, time and again, glorying in the language and the hope.