The meticulous form of the book—from an abiding commitment to strophes, to the dates of the letters, to chronology—shows us a speaker immersed in acts of devotion both sacred and profane ... Buried in the devotion to formal precision is the deep pain of being unseen and untouched by Naomi, the figure who is already gone. In The Naomi Letters, Mennies’s speaker writes lines that won’t ever be seen by the desired. The speaker is left with us, the readers—a notion that someone else might witness what has happened between these two, even if the bodies have no record of it. More painfully, some of us might even read the poems in the same fashion in which the speaker wrote them—as a kind of prayer: not one that ends in desire but in light.
Mennies accumulates a personal literary tradition, sharing that language with Naomi, situating these letters in a facilitation of poetry’s figurative powers ... Yet The Naomi Letters does not lecture about how or why poetry will change our sense of language, our selves, through metaphor—instead Mennies’s epistolary poems dramatize, as they interpret and interact with borrowed language, that selfsame power of figurative thought. The Naomi Letters is a record of one’s continued, lifelong reconciliation with their changing body, with the practice of faith situated in historical violence, with what increasingly looks like the volatility of the future ... While these poems will indeed remain in the shape Mennies carefully designed, they will continue to be experienced as words on the page, sounds in our voices—and that process of making will be enacted again, upon each reading, with forever extending timestamps ... The best poems...are made with such specificity, such unmistakable architecture, that hearing them is precisely this experience, this happening. As we actively engage with these poems, and as these poems conduct us through that engagement, their loved and beloved figures seem to almost, almost answer our questions.
... a series of evocative prose poems ... having gestured towards disclosure...the collection, tantalizingly, withholds it ... What makes love happen in the first place and why does it disappear? There are no answers to these questions. Yet, the collection provides an oddly fulfilling emotional journey. We may not understand ourselves, or the people we love, but Mennies reminds us that poetry accompanies us in our fraught attempts to navigate the complexities of the human heart.