Her poetry itself is skillful, but again rarely has that magic effect of a profound truth, perfectly expressed, the way great poetry does. I rarely felt surprised. Exceptions were occasional turns of phrase and image: when she describes “the man who watched his wife led away: her birdlike, crumpled steps, his face distorted, his eyes punched red.” Another memorable poem is a letter to her hair, and how her expectation of losing it suddenly is belied by the fact of it lingering to the point of annoyance.
It is not that the words are poorly assembled, though the poetry is entirely prose, and lacks any sound devices or rhythm. I find myself reminded of a favorite author of mine, Jeanette Winterson, and her novel Written on the Body, which also concerns cancer. Garland’s poetry is similar to Winterson’s prose, but this highlights what Garland’s work lacks—character, relationships, and a greater emotional depth than the constant lingering on physical change and medical detail.