Chautauqua Reviews Bewildered by All This Broken Sky by Anna Scotti
Updated: May 2, 2022
Sierra Thoemmes, Chautauqua Editorial Assistant
Reviews Bewildered by All This Broken Sky, by Anna Scott
Anna K. Scotti is fiction writer, poet, devoted teacher, Antioch University MFA graduate (2007), and—above all else—a lover of words. She won the Lightscatter Press Prize for her poetry collection, Bewildered by All This Broken Skyand published her first young-adult novel Big and Bad (Texas Review Press) in 2020.
We at Chautauqua feel incredibly honored to review her collection, to sit and ruminate with her words. Poet Ellen Bass describes Scotti’s poems as “[work that] helps us to see the miraculous in the broken, the every day, the ordinary, and are suffused with radiant language and deep kindness.” We are so glad to reconnect with Anna Scotti. Chautauqua was the first to publish “Babba Ya,” “Wishbone,” and “Disconnect,” a few poems that appear in Bewildered by All This Broken Sky.
I was struck by the feeling of goodbye in these readings: forget-me-nots and loved ones passed, the bitter sting of a partner changed, blame and doubt and anxiety and guilt. “You’re a bedtime story now, / old friend. A promise left unkept. A bordered box / on a folded page.” (“Jellyfish” 18.) These poems are ghosts or whispers of memory.
And yet it is magic in glimpses, the sound of laughter and tinkling bells. We feel support in shared sadness.
No èstas sola, quierda.
Todo està bien. Tranquille, chèrie.
T’es pas seule. Rest easy, rest easy,
you aren’t, just yet, alone. (“T’es Pas Seule” 40.)
Anna Scotti’s language comforts us that we are not isolated against the cruel beauty of this maddening world.
So, like pieces of stained glass, the characters in this collection come together to make up all this broken sky, and you—the reader—are solidified somewhere between it. Scotti features images of the mundane and everyday passing members of society but she reminds us that they each have their own story. These poems are vulnerable at their core while still striking universality. I saw myself in Scotti’s prose: how we long for reassurance, the dynamic of a daughter with her mother or the inevitable, existential dread of watching a parent succumb to time. Themes of reverence, of spirit, of humor, and of death connect the five sections of her collection, grounding the reader in recurring images of reverence, prayer, and nature. Anna Scotti makes this happen through her understanding of poetic elements such as imagery, rhythm, and line breaks.
Scotti’s use of alliteration and sound especially carries through these poems. You get a true sense of the effort she put into her work—the careful precision she wove into each word. “A squat black bakelite thing, with a coiled cord / and a smug pug face. . .” (“Grief” ). Her use of repetition keeps the reader engaged, clinging to every word.
My favorite poem from Bewildered by All This Broken Sky is “Hauntings.” She characterizes this sense of longing after death through contrasting images. Scotti depicts our world through rose-colored glasses: childhood memories, heirlooms, and favorite meals. This is juxtaposed by the realm of the dead.
Choose something they remember, too,
with equal longing
enough to forgo the wings, the cobwebs,
the spooky whisperings
those tedious perquisites of the dead.
Anna Scotti characterizes this yearning so perfectly—our need to tempt the dead—and the questions we have about life after this. These are experiences we might recognize from the impact of COVID-19.
You wouldn’t think it while reading, but Anna Scotti faced the block of publishing during this world-wide pandemic. What I find remarkable about Bewildered by All This Broken sky is the momentum it carries from beginning to end. In an interview with Amanda Woodard, Scotti explained, “. . . amidst all those tragedies, there are the small daily losses: My readings were canceled, and all my signings were canceled.” These mishaps fueled Scotti’s work—made them hungry, desperate—and demanded they be read.
When I listened, I loved this collection. I am not a poet, but I am a person, a daughter, a student, a friend. These poems are for neighbors, for strangers, for anyone who wants to see their experience reflected in someone else. I recommend Bewildered by All This Broken Sky to anyone who needs to laugh, to cry, or to dream.