“Sometimes I’ve said good morning when I meant to say what is that hideous thing,” writes Rachel Galvin in Elevated Threat Level, a collection concerned with the power of media, the repetition of history, and the assault of violent images that saturate our modern world. While the subjects of these poems are, indeed, “hideous things,” Galvin injects lyricism—sometimes puzzling, always fresh—into each line or phrase, which makes for devastating and beautiful writing.

In reading this collection, I was awestruck by Galvin’s control of the line; the poet is able to suspend readers in unfathomable, perfectly-rendered moments. One such moment occurs in “Age of Contagion,” where Galvin writes: “Meanwhile, a child’s spine was being stretched / by special South Korean machines / until his body curved into a bridge. / He blinked there for a while.” A stanza break follows the final line, supercharging the image she captures: a perfect view of shock and horror. 

I cannot sugarcoat it. These are difficult, painful poems—but Elevated Threat Level did not dishearten me. For every boy transformed into a bridge, there is a “. . . holy meanwhile, in Haiti / one girl survived by eating fruit leathers for three days.” There is faith here.

Green Lantern Press.

—Review by Emma Jones