Sara Hirsch’s debut is a photo album of memories described by a woman not trying to be anyone other than herself. Still Falling is a collection of both rare and everyday encounters which are often shocking, and always personal. The title itself suggests a continuation of mistake making and learning, rather than a Wonder Woman account of being practically perfect in every way.
From loss to love, the narrative remains steady and reliable; it is short form poetry that often wades into short-story territory, allowing her voice to drift in and out of memories, a wavering structure that promises the same imperfections as her experiences. Hirsch’s word choice is unexpectedly powerful; there is no guessing game or hidden meaning behind her narrative, yet its simplicity strikes hard. Hirsch lost her father to cancer and has since struggled to find a sense of belonging in her childhood home. She does not romanticise her loss or aggressively dive into heart-wrenching detail that might make one feel uncomfortable. Instead, Hirsch allows the reader to peek into the diary of her past:
Losing a father is Unwriteable[.]
“Unwriteable” is bold and troubling, and may seem slightly out of place, but Hirsch never substitutes details for words. The simplicity of her writing is often childlike in its vulnerability, “Oranges and Lemons” being a perfect example of this. There is nothing particularly unusual in her experiences; losing grandparents is inevitable and therefore a challenging topic to make unique. Yet Hirsch describes these final moments in a fresh and unapologetic account of conversations and inner-dialogue.
The collection starts off a little sombre but gradually picks up into a giggle-fest of poems such as “Dear Mizz Magazine” and “What a Way to Make a Living”. The array of different tones and emotions highlights the versatility of women; one can suffer a great loss but still find humour in everyday situations. Despite the change in mood, the style remains consistently playful, honest and simple:
21.10.02 Dear Miss Magazine Am I still normal if I can’t wear a bra and I have a dead dad? Confused_girl89[.]
Hirsch’s poetic language is translated in Twenty-First century tales of heartbreak, infatuation and embarrassment. The collection’s spacious layout suggests not to rush, and the more compact pieces often suggest more depth to the topic. However, Still Falling is undeniably designed for those who once read Mizz Magazine and feel an explosion of nostalgia remembering what every teenage girl seemed to love in the early 2000s. However, not everyone can appreciate that feeling. The style is impressive and notable, but the collection is certainly topic-focused.
Sara Hirsch ditches romanticism and replaces it with modern realism, so why did I cry reading it? Perhaps it was because reading her collection felt like meeting a friend for coffee. Her language is casual and often brassy, but the openness of her stories allows the reader to truly get to know Hirsch as a person and feel touched by the pain of her experiences. This provides real dimension to both the writer and the collection, providing more than just a good read. The UK Slam Champion’s style of repetition and rhyme is sticky and sublime, and her awareness and unadulterated honesty shines through:
We lie like anacondas on the surface of my duvet desert and eat custard creams, letting the crumbs collect in the camel-coloured sand of my sheets.
Since Still Falling, Hirsch has published a second collection, Louder Than Words, and is currently working on her third, The State of Being Useful, both of which will be on my book shelf in the near future.