The Body at a Loss

Forthcoming Spring 2019 from CavanKerry Press

About The Body at a Loss

Cati Porter’s mother began chemo on July 19, 2012, Cati’s 41st birthday. Throughout the process, from diagnosis through treatment and recovery, Cati became her mother’s patient advocate, attending doctors’ visits, writing lists of questions to ask, shepherding her mother through an “inconvenient year” — a phrase coined by Cati’s mentor and friend, also a breast cancer survivor. During her mother’s recovery period, Cati receives her own medical diagnosis. These poems document in real time her experience of being diagnosed and treated for a medical condition and examine how quickly the advocate can become the patient.


In Cati Porter’s newest book, The Body at a Loss, the poet bears powerful witness as both a support to her mother undergoing cancer treatment and as the prime figure in her own story of illness. Where the rush and blur of “normalcy” starkly end in the cold realm of medical offices, a kind of suspension enters—part underworld, part dreamscape, part hyper-presence—and Porter stays here at the knife-edge of knowing and unknowing, following every contour of perception. Awash with singularity, Porter gifts these poems with a fearless attention that exposes loss after loss as she keeps turning the gaze in toward the body so completely that a remarkable intimacy emerges, the moment when the body is reclaimed with exquisite kindness.

— Jennifer K. Sweeney

Cati Porter’s The Body at a Loss carefully dissects the strangely intimate and simultaneously dehumanizing theater of medicine, the difficult tightrope between well and sick, between life and death, the journey of all mortal beings with beautiful. moving language.

— Jeannine Hall Gailey

The Body at a Loss faces cancer, “the traitorous rising up / Of the lymphocytic swarms" head on. Porter points out magic all around us in each poem. "Sad coyotes at dusk trot / Their dun bodies into the lit field," and the world we inhabit is beautiful—because of our ephemerality. You need to read this book through in one sitting, let the narrative arc wash over you; then, return to it again and again.

— Shaindel Beers

Cati Porter’s The Body at a Loss traces the difficult story of women’s bodies in distress. Straightforward and unobtrusively adorned, as if in lavender hospital gowns, the poems carry us through the painful history of Cati’s mother’s cancer, the cancer and death of Cati’s friend Marion, and Cati’s own considerable medical issues, helps us, finally, understand “how to live acknowledging/There is always a diagnosis, and not always a cure.” The poems discover, with humor and grace, that the present tense is “All there is; all there ever is”, and they leave us with a shared experience and deeper appreciation of “This braided life, this tangled, aching bliss.”

— Laurel Blossom


About Cati