But There's So Much DIY in IVF That We Can't Be Sure

But There's So Much DIY in IVF That We Can't Be Sure
Toby Goostree
Fernwood Press


But There's So Much DIY in IVF That We Can't Be Sure brings together the story of two couples, a husband and wife going through IVF and Abraham and Sarah from the book of Genesis, finding overlap in the grief of infertility even as their lives are seemingly far apart. Before the medicine cabinet, beneath the Mesopotamian sky-the speaker in these poems is science-based but God-haunted-or the other way around-as one couple's life is overtaken by doctors' appointments, shots, and measurements, and the other waits for theophany with nothing but time, an octogenarian and nonagenarian already. Resourceful, these frank poems corroborate themselves with language learned along the way, an insider's account and feelings.

These intimate poems weave together stories from the book of Genesis, a couple's labyrinthine journey through IVF, and the painful space between wanting and getting what we want. In the "empty circle" ("Anovulation") where conception is a supreme effort, Bible stories of Adam and Eve, Leah and Rachel, Abraham and Isaac, flood in. We must confront profound questions of faith and belief in the midst of "setbacks, disappointments, even harm" ("Theodicy"). Goostree's poems are a beautiful and deep dive into the nature of agency and powerlessness-the essential question of our epoch and that of every epoch before us. 

-Valerie Martínez, author of Count, Each and Her, and Absence, Luminescent

But There's So Much DIY in IVF That We Can't Be Sure is a lyrical meditation on faith, on how wanting a child is a gesture of hope, and how the inability to conceive a child asks what we do with such powerful love. Toby Goostree's poems are tender and probing investigations into the biblical stories of Leah, Sarah, and Rachel, how children were given to-or withheld from-them as tests, gauges of how much they were loved. "What's the word for intimacy," Goostree writes, "without holding something over you?" Writing as an adoring husband charged with providing fertility shots to his wife, Goostree grapples with this powerlessness, asking, "Will not the judge of earth do right?" This moving collection is both mournful and celebratory, haunting and healing-part love song, part prayer.

-Erin Adair-Hodges, author of Let's All Die Happy, and Every Form of Ruin

While the nineteenth-century professional schism between art and science persists to this day, Toby Goostree's But There's So Much DIY in IVF That We Can't Be Sure reunites the two, not from a practitioner's perspective, à la Williams, but from the patient's. Here Goostree marvels at the language one is forced to learn throughout the IVF process: the hope and longing infused in words like "Novarel" and "antrum," the mysterious-until-too-familiar acronyms, and the distressingly increasing strangeness of "father" and "mother." The speaker occupies a fraught position as both integral to conception and profoundly outside it; unmoored from his religion, his wife, and his community, he turns to poetry to find them all again. This is a book of deep observation and grief, though not without humor and faith. 

-Rachel Abramowitz, author of The Birthday of the Dead, and The Puzzle Monster

Toby Goostree's

poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Christianity and Literature, and Santa Clara Review among others. A graduate of The University of Arizona Writer's Workshop, he lives in Kansas City, his hometown, where he owns a small financial planning practice.


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