Requiem for a robot dog by Lauren scharhag, Reviewed by editor allison blevins
I found the heart of Requiem for a Robot Dog in the poem “Therapy.” Author of the collection Lauren Scharhag writes, “I think God / is the problem.” Sometimes her poems directly address God; for instance, in “Pardon” she tells us that “for our purposes, God is this prison.” In other poems, the cicada’s song, a journey to Apache ground, or sirens become holy and force the reader to interrogate their relationship with the divine. While the focus of her book isn't always religion, her work appears to be searching for something greater.
Scharhag’s poems cast a wide net: heaven, earth, and all the destinations between. Sometimes the search is for a connection with another person. Other times, it is a robot dog reaching out, teaching the reader a lesson about the “truth of [our] grief.” In one of my favorite poems, a hirsute woman refuses to be cut down and proclaims, “Try to trim me and I just grow back.” This collection is in many ways an epic of the everyday, and she leaves no stone unturned.
In Scharhag's requiem, our mundane and ordinary lives intersect with the sublime. She rollercoasters us through “Asphalt Fruit,” a four-line poem about a dropped strawberry, to “Life Support, or Things No One Tells You About Dealing with a Terminally-ill Spouse” which masterfully spans several pages and forces us to confront our place in the world. We learn that grief is like a “season of bonfires and altars.” In Scharhag's world, like our world, Crystal Pepsi, Garbage Pail Kids, familial death, and refugees collide. I left this book with more questions about myself and my world than when I entered. Requiem for a Robot Dog is truly a liminal space holding up a mirror to our culture, beliefs, and shared experiences.
Allison Blevins received her MFA at Queens University of Charlotte. She is the author of the chapbooks Susurration (Blue Lyra Press, 2019), Letters to Joan (Lithic Press, 2019), and A Season for Speaking (Seven Kitchens Press, 2019), part of the Robin Becker Series. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Harbor Review and the Poetry Editorial Assistant at Literary Mama. Her work has appeared in such journals as Mid-American Review, the minnesota review, Raleigh Review, Sinister Wisdom, and Josephine Quarterly. She lives in Missouri with her wife and three children where she co-organizes the Downtown Poetry reading series. For more information visit http://www.allisonblevins.com.