Sometimes broad black humor is required, and sometimes the suffering is too delicate for anything other than the most quietly astute words. Blue Peninsula: Essential Words for a Life of Loss and Change is an unusual hybrid of health memoir and favorite poems book, detailing former teacher, researcher and editor Madge McKeithen's struggle with her son Ike's mysterious illness. McKeithen is consoled by compulsively reading poem after poem ripped from magazines and books and tucked into thick medical files that she ferries from clinic to clinic while trying to figure out what is happening to her son. I became a poetry addict, she writes, poems became almost all I could read. Blue Peninsula features excerpts of works by Billy Collins, Donald Hall, e.e. cummings, Louise GlŸck, Mark Doty, Sharon Olds, Czeslaw Milosz and many others; their precise, concentrated wisdom becomes at times near lifesaving for McKeithen as she faces her son's uncertain future and herself as mother, diagramming the words and her own procession through isolation, frustration, sorrow and small slivers of light. Do I have it in me to reach for Peace, Hope, even Delight? McKeithen asks, referencing the Emily Dickinson poem that gives the book its title.

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