Like many teenagers, I fancied myself a poet. Like most, I was, objectively speaking, not great. My style was all over the place, the one common thread being an awkward reliance on dark subjects about which I knew nothing. The poem about being a suburban divorcée. The one written from the point of view of a coroner, shaped to resemble a body. An unnecessarily angry indictment of Connecticut. I stubbornly resisted editing, and it showed. But as a senior in high school, I had a patient and kind creative writing teacher, and my poems improved.
One was published in a literary magazine, which I was moderately proud of, but when a cousin read the poem later that summer and told me she wished she'd written it herself, I suddenly felt like I'd won a Pulitzer. Nina, only two years older, was already an accomplished wordsmith by then, her own poems lush with imagery and genuine experience. While I had been writing weird Valentine's Day poetry about cryogenically preserved heads (yes, really), she had been mastering metaphors and the art of a beautifully turned phrase. Her writing was in an entirely different league, so I could not have imagined a bigger compliment. While I suspected at the time that "On Hearing Our Song Over the Kitchen Radio" would be my only poetic success (it was), I was pretty sure that Nina's trajectory would be much more extraordinary. And it has been.
Today, her memoir, The Bright Hour, hits bookshelves everywhere. Nina finished the book this past January, just a month before dying from metastatic breast cancer. She was 39. The book, like Nina, is brilliant and gorgeous and profound and funny. It's about love and family and death and dogs and friendship and all the other wildness that is life as a human. It's full of masterful metaphors and beautifully turned phrases, and there's even a Top Gun reference. It is, in short, amazing. And while I'm heartbroken that Nina isn't with us to share in the joy of this astonishing accomplishment, I couldn't be prouder. The world is about to meet an exceptional woman.