Bodies Like Gardens by Salena Wiener

bodies like gardens by Salena Wiener defines itself as a “collection [that] explores the relationship between bodies and nature, and how these intersect with themes of femininity, motherhood, religion, and trauma” which is quite the task for a collection of eighteen poems. Unfortunately, while the overall ideas and images behind the poem are sound, much of the execution left something to be desired. Many of the metaphors felt underdeveloped while in other places the poems and their images were repetitive. 

The most obvious example of the repetition in these poems is that a large portion start in the same way: “I [verb] at/in [location].” 

“bodies like gardens”

            I lie in bed

            clutch the pillow

“black bird”

            I sit in my kitchen 

            pour my cereal and the


“blades of grass”

            I lay back in the grass


            I sit cross-legged at the edge of the bed

“hips covered in dirt”

            I walk down the street

This opening phrasing has almost become a cliche of modern poetry but I find that it often lacks the rich and evocative imagery I desire of poetry. I found that these introductory sentences simply delayed the action of the poems. 

For example, cutting that first line and a half of the poem “black bird” would allow the poem to get straight at the metaphorical black bird which, based on the rest of the collection, appears to be depression. 

The collection also fails to develop certain themes that seem to underlie the poems. Sticking with the poem “black bird,” the mentions of domestic life seem to hint at an opposing relationship with the black bird but because domesticity was referenced so tangentially at the beginning and end of the poem that this relationship is not well defined and does not accomplish what the poem seems to set out to do. 

All this being said, there were some diamonds among the rough. I found the poem “wave” encapsulated the author’s narrative poetic style while feeling fresh and innovative in its energy. The poem was sparse enough to not feel repetitive or like anything was unnecessary and explored the chapbook’s stated themes.  This poem and the poem that followed it, “water” both jumped right into the action of the poem, allowing the reader to see what the speaker needed to tell them. 

Overall, while bodies like gardens plays with interesting imagery and ideas it seemed to try and do too much with too little. There were so many themes and forms of poetry explored that it did not seem to have a cohesive identity. With a bit more development and editing, these poems would be real jewels. 

Salena Wiener lives in Montreal and is pursuing her undergraduate degree in English Literature Honours at Concordia University. She is a former Prose Editor for Soliloquies Anthology Magazine, and her poetry is featured in Peculiars Magazine, Cauldron Anthology, Subversions: A Journal of Feminist Queries, and Graphite Publications. Twitter: @salena_wiener. 

Grace R. Taylor (They/Them) is a queer, disabled writer obsessed with the murderous women of Greek Mythology. They have a MA in English from the University of New Brunswick and have been published in The Angle and TransCare+’s Comfort Food Zine. They have been both a Co-Managing Editor and Poetry Editor for Qwerty Magazine and currently works at The Fiddlehead.