A review of The Pit by Tara Borin

Reviewed by Craig Hayes II

The Pit
by Tara Borin
Nightwood Editions
October 2021, Paperback, 80 pages, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0889713949

Tara Borin, author of The Pit, collects a series of room shifts, phone calls, and late-night drink stints in this softly spoken body of work. The weary lives and lingering thoughts of dive bar regulars are put on display, allowing Borin to build an episodic tour by way of the stories spread from room to room. With grief, escapism, routine, and music colliding under one roof, the servers embrace their positions on the front lines, as Borin craftily details every nook of their dive bar bursting with personalities.

Borin writes with a scenic, calm dignity that never neglects the minute signals in various expressions and what they are saying. The “flight of fathers” have “spent shoulders drawn back” and their “rough chins jut out over sunken chests…” (Borin, 10). After the “last call crush” a group of friends look to the sky “like children to catch whirling stars” (Borin, 5). A woman’s “spine sings with syzygy” while watching a frontman perform, “lips hovering over that mic as he sneers some Rolling Stones cover” (Borin, 12). Borin holds a fascinating grip on the web of customers. They are an artisan of the in-between-moments & the thoughts that live and breed quietly underneath the tongue. Not only do they commit spectacular attention to cohesiveness, but meticulous detail is shown in each scene, as aforementioned. 

The Pit is vulnerable. Every character is one that you might know and put a face to. None are foreign or fantastical and in that way, friendly yet tragic in the same breath, quickly urging sympathy from the reader. Just as a pub is a collector of escapists and thrill-seekers, it is routinely a home for the broken and suffering. The manner in which Borin curates a motif of safety is endearing and compliments the beauty of The Pit. It is a safe haven for every wanderer, which gives it a temple-like quality. “It opens the door to relief, sanctuary from the daily assault… Sanctuary from the past that haunts you, the things you can’t control, the things done to you and done to you” (Borin, 6). 

The collision of desire and reality is a prominent theme with the search for relief at its center. This focal point tethers the reader to each regular as inner demons and quiet joys are pulled into the light as they “drink… To find love… To hush the heart… To soothe unwritten stories” and “drink the wounds of our parents and of their parents and theirs” (Borin, 42). The underlying search for comfort is relatable and ushers the reader in and offers them a seat in the dive bar. It points to a universal desire by people, and thus, deepens our connection to each character. Borin does not only give voice to customers in turmoil, but instead illuminates the depth of the human experience by dedicating pages to the joyous, the searching, the discontent, and the reminiscent.

Poetry buffs expecting to be immersed in experimental, thorough lyric puzzles will not be satisfied with this body of work. However, The Pit is reader-friendly and geared towards, and probably preferred by, the more casual reader. It is a quick read, perfect for a weekend binge or your local book club. It is the type of book that is accessible to the majority of readers, and will readily satisfy the occasional reading urge, particularly for those looking to read more but need a solid literary pick to get some momentum. The Pit is a welcome addition to a burgeoning bookshelf.

About the reviewer: Craig Hayes II is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, having majored in English Writing with a minor in Secondary Education. Hailing from Houston, Texas, Craig is a poet, musician, and a lover of all forms of art and expression. He has an MFA from NYU.

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