Matthew Daddona on the catharsis and circumvention in Leah Umansky’s Domestic Uncertainties.
When we think about revision—literary, personal, moral, otherwise—a clutching version of self converges with the outside world. It is how two distinct vocabularies merge, and whether elegiac, profound, magnanimous, or gleeful, it is nonetheless a beautiful and necessary allegiance. As Leah Umansky writes in her creative debut collection of poetry, Domestic Uncertainties, “I was the transfiguration,” a testament to not just the individual as the purveyor of compounded emotions but the author as its carrier and intelligible accomplice.
Domestic Uncertainties is not apprehensive about its message. At the forefront is the fictionalized trajectory of Umansky’s real-life divorce, but what arises is how a writer (in the most ubiquitous sense) can integrate the autobiographical and make herself better for it. In the book’s first part, thoughts, accusations, and annoyances are rushed into the overlooked, domestic spaces of married life, “Past the memory; past the dream,” as written in the opening line of “The Marital Space.” For Umansky, coping is sidling idealistic phrases and reveries into the margins. But even more important is doing so to convert them into more practical and vital forms, rendering them as self-confident, aware outpourings. She writes, “I stood, unafraid/ I stand now, unafraid.” Repeated phrases unabashedly unfold and improve upon themselves—they become literal and psychological ponderings, a type of marital subversion of double-blind theory of which there is a clear authoritative winner (hint: it’s the author). Language, then, must be revised in order to keep up.