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Today Means Amen by Sierra DeMulder review


9781449474119_frontcoverSierra DeMulder
“Today Means Amen”
Andrews McMeel Publishing – 2016

Rating – 5/5

Today Means Amen is the third full length poetry collection from Minnesota poet Sierra DeMulder, a two time National Slam champion and internationally touring poet. In the time between her last collection and this one, she released a chapbook through Button Poetry: the excellent and highly personal We Slept Here. Today Means Amen follows the same vein as much of her work, though the edges here are sharper and cut deeper. DeMulder swings the hammer hard on the first poem, “The In-Between”, a break up poem that also references a stillborn baby: Our love: not pregnant, nor a good left hook, but it did put up one hell of a fight. The title poem is an affirmation, a poem that first manifested in a video for Button Poetry. It is among the strongest of the collection: You, who have felt more numb than holy, more cracked than mosaic. Who have known the tiles of a bathroom by heart. Many times with slam poets, there is a loss in translation from the spoken word to the printed page. Oftentimes, the power is sucked out of the words when they’re not performed. DeMulder is one of few who has honed her craft so well that the words come over with the same intensity when read. Many of these poems deal with depression and broken people, with lines like I am not a problem to be solved and I am neither the mistake nor the punishment. The relationship love in DeMulder’s poems seems to inevitably fail, whereas the poems with emphasis on self love become mantras. The damaged subjects are the most compelling in Today Means Amen, and there are many: the haunted Sarah Winchester in “Thirteen Stanzas For Sarah Winchester Whom I Think I Understand”, a dementia riddled grandfather in “Remember” and “Floating”, a girl struggling with body image in “Beautiful”. DeMulder and Sarah Kay seem to be the best at writing fully formed poems, as opposed to falling into the trappings of the typical slam poet who tends to rant and yell. These poems are intimate and telling. They hold little back, and give repeatedly. Today Means Amen is a collection that seems richer each time you read it, which makes it all the more compelling over time.