Sometimes I feel like I’m reading in fiberglass. Restless itching and sick of everything. But I love this book like a school girl loves a fresh-faced Math teacher. Blindly.
It’s hard to know what to call Kevin Sampsell; a novelist? Memoirist, editor, curator of books, reader? He is all of these things. And perhaps this is why it’s hard to know what to call his new book, This is Between Us. A novel, sure, but the story is built from individual moments like bricks, like flash, like poetry, and calling the book fiction feels like a cop-out. There’s something too nervously real about the beautifully complex five years of relationship Sampsell’s characters are mired in to give it such an easy label.
Sampsell’s phrasing and imagery never fall short of wonderfully surprising or equally heartbreaking. When asked about the influences for his poetic writing in This is Between Us, Sampsell said, “I like poetry that is emotionally jarring. I think Ghost Machine by Ben Mirov was one of the first in a newer wave of poetry books that I loved in the past few years. There was also Coeur de Lion by Ariana Reines, which felt eviscerating to me. Discovering Sharon Olds was a beautiful and important moment as well. There was also Dan Magers, Emily Kendal Frey, Dorothea Lasky, Gregory Sherl, Diana Salier, and most recently, James Gendron. I love how these poets craft lines that whisper and sting and bloom, all at the same time. I love how poetry, more than prose, uses unconventional language and imagery to create a mood that was not there just a few words before.”