USEREVIEW 068 (Capsule): Alignment

Hollay Ghadery/ March 9, 2022/ Book Review, Capsule Review

Ashley-Elizabeth Best
Alignment (Rahila’s Ghost Press, 2021)
ISBN 978-1-98946-309-3 | 29 pp | $12 CAD — BUY Here


There’s violence in interpretation, and Alignment — a chapbook by disabled poet and essayist Ashley-Elizabeth Best, published by Rahila’s Ghost Press — sheds light on this violence with stunning and shattering insight. Not only does Best explore how language is interpreted, but she also explores the way in which a suffering mind and body are (mis)interpreted through language, and the pain that can compound as a result.

“My body is mispronouncing itself,” — so Best begins the poem, ‘Pathology.’ She goes on to write, “My words, always pale / reflections for the language of my organs.” The sentiments here, which reflect how language fails to adequately express bodily anguish, are an echo of an earlier poem “Good Sick/Bad Sick,” which ends with the lines, “Everyone wants to hear how your mind has betrayed you, / but there was no disloyalty, just little stories you didn’t know / how to tell.”

There is no existing language to readily express sickness in the mind or body, but in an interesting twist, Best does not seem to argue that attempts at expression are therefore futile. There are the little stories after all, and implied at the end of that line is that she didn’t know how to tell the stories, yet. Alignment then, could be viewed as her attempt at creating a language to tell her stories, and if so, she succeeds beautifully.

Recommended excerpt:

Check out ‘I Wanted’ (p. 7) to see how Best undercuts recovery as the ultimate narrative finish. Instead, she boldly and eloquently insists that we should be loved regardless of whether or not we get better.

Hollay Ghadery is a writer living in small-town Ontario. She has her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Guelph. Her fiction, non-fiction and poetry have been published in various literary journals, including CAROUSEL, Grain, Room, The Antigonish Review, The Fiddlehead and The Malahat Review. Her memoir on mixed-race identity and mental health, Fuse, came out with Guernica Editions’ MiroLand imprint in spring 2021.

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