A poetic spin on the memoir
Memoir is an incredibly popular genre these days. With everybody from comedians to reality stars to world travelers telling their stories, you can find a memoir to suit almost any mood. As a reader of poetry, I was interested to learn that Paul Guest, one of my favorite poets, had written a memoir. One More Theory About Happiness explores Guest's quadriplegic paralysis, stemming from a childhood accident, and his life experiences as a disabled person. He often uses these topics in his poetry, which exudes pain and frustration; here, Guest's poetic voice brings a sort of calm to the often gruesome descriptions of injury, hospitalization, and rehabilitation.
In the first section, twelve-year-old Paul takes a ride on an old bike, hits a ditch, and flies into the air. Guest manages to directly describe the details of the accident while also recreating his first experience of not-feeling. His talent with words is evident in the way he manages to make the reader understand the suddenness of paralysis, something most of us will never experience. He writes, "My head felt like a stone and all that my mind could conjure for me to understand was that the rest of me seemed to float away."
The rest of the book continues as beautifully, as Guest describes pain and disability, and how he deals with them in language that defies typical sensory understanding. He can't feel in the same way most people do, and instead confronts the world with language. Poetry is
Guest's way of feeling and interacting with the world at large. Guest's ease with language and day-to-day look at the realities of disability make One More Theory About Happiness a worthy addition to the memoir shelf.