Kelly Forsythe’s startling debut, Perennial (Coffee House), asks two timely, important questions: What leads to mass school shootings? And how do survivors deal with the violence afterward? ... Forsythe, who drew on historical documents, brilliantly uses details that are subtle but telling to convey the chaos and horror of the event ... Perennial adeptly captures the complexity of the subject and reminds readers how difficult it is to understand and overcome such events, even decades later.
Perennial forces the reader to inhabit the bodies of both those directly involved with the shooting and those on the outside looking in, demonstrating the lasting impact of the event. Forsythe writes just as convincingly from the perspectives of the victims and the shooters as she does from her own seventh-grade self ... The depth of Forsythe’s research is heavily felt in these pages, as she draws from police reports, transcripts, and journal excerpts for the language and images used in her poems ... A talented wordsmith, Forsythe is interested as much in the meaning behind each word she chooses as the emotion each word evokes ... Forsythe’s diction is so purposeful that she will sometimes use a word connected with the parts of a gun (i.e., 'a barrel of lipstick'), so that even when she is not outright speaking about the shooting, it is always there in some small way ... The power of Forsythe’s poems is how they construct the possibility of a new narrative while keeping the truth intact.
Forsythe’s intense and disquieting debut reckons with grief, senseless violence, compassion, and adolescent alienation centered on the 1999 Columbine High School massacre ... Forsythe details her settings, such as the bedroom of one of the shooters, in a chilling and reverential manner ... The angst of adolescence is palpable ... Forsythe’s moving catalogue of a horrific event becomes a diagram of senselessness where minutiae take on a stark and eerie resonance when read beside today’s headlines.