Poetry is perhaps the ideal artistic medium for processing an abusive relationship. One of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship, what distinguishes it from merely being assaulted, is that the attacker must convince their victim to linger, and abusers the world over share one key tactic: damage their victim’s senses of reality and self-worth. When reality breaks down, emotional impressions remain, tethered to the moments that made them and providing a path toward making sense of life once more. This is the place where Pet: the Journey from Abuse to Recovery, by Kella Hanna-Wayne, lives, and in that noisome soil this poetry collection has grown into something beautiful.
As my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada lurches dramatically into the coldest chunk of winter for several years and I prepare for some balmy foreign travel, it is difficult to avoid thinking about how much more pleasant my existence in this snow-choked city could be. Winter often brings critics of urbanism smug satisfaction, as they look down at us mere transit users from their heated vehicles that migrate from sealed garage to sealed garage. They watch us trudge through snow or sigh in defeat when paths are blocked, often by snow cleared for cars’ benefit in nearby areas, and imagine that this imbalance is a fact of nature. Well, very little about our relationship with automobiles is a fact of nature. Contrary to their privileged imagination, it is not the dashboard vents delivering slightly burnt-smelling warmth to frozen hands on steering wheels that make winter so much easier for them. Cities are systems that reflect the forces shaping them and past the most basic physical realities, every factor that makes winter feel like motorist territory that has trapped the rest of us until spring is the result of human decisions. And different decisions could have been and could still be made.