I Saw Myself Alive in a Coffin, Kait Quinn’s second poetry collection, begins with a wonderful author’s note detailing Quinn’s honest intentions. Through her experience with depression, grief and suicidal ideation, Death and thinking about death became ever present in Quinn’s consciousness and so in her poetry too. And yet, Quinn does not seek to romanticise this subject, instead she beautifully and masterfully finds life and hope in its folds.
This tone and desire for the reader to find comfort in her work rather than fear is established stunningly and honestly in ‘When I Think of Death’. I Saw Myself Alive in a Coffin begins with an authenticity which resonated deeply with my own experience with depression and suicidal ideation. Quinn impressively sustains this vulnerability throughout; never isolating her reader from experience and truth.
“for most days, my heart is a series
of haunted chambers,
and I am trying to stop speaking to the dead” [Fickle Heart]
Quinn’s poetry has undeniably grown since her first collection, A Time for Winter. In her words, I read and hear wonderful echoes of great Gothic writers like Poe and Shelley respectively; while there are hints of Dickinson in Quinn’s control of metre and rhythm too. What Quinn achieves, however, is never losing her own voice and originality among the greats who inspire us all. This voice and talent is exemplified in ‘Dead Hearts’ and ‘The Undressing’ which are both beautiful and evocative.
Here, I Saw Myself Alive in a Coffin begins to transition, with Quinn drawing more upon Plath rather than the Gothic genre as her work embarks on heavy and sincere introspection. These pieces embody the natural world, reflecting how we are all a part of something far bigger; Quinn captures an inevitable oneness with the environment and reflects a vicious yet serene life cycle.
“—too full of rot i’ve yet to purge
to make room for spring to blossom.” [My Eyes are Frozen Lakes]
Quinn’s introspection is raw and brave in visceral pieces like ‘Testing, Testing’ and ‘All My Worst’. This part is especially moving as Quinn explores womanhood in particular, in relation to life and death.
The final transition is marked by ‘The Garden’ which recalls the author’s note, reminding us death is the reason for us to live, accompanied beautifully by ‘Call It A Blessing’. And so, the final pieces like ‘Commandment’ are powerful promises made to the self. Quinn ruminates on life after death and near-death experience, in doing so her words remind us we must have darkness to have the light, we must have sadness to feel joy, and we must know death in order to taste the headiness of life. Quinn handles death honestly and gently, discovers the hope to be found and leaves its softness with us, days after reading.