Scarlett’s debut poetry collection captures the various effects love has on the mind and body.
This work starts off by screaming loudly at the reader: “Engage me. Engage me / Tell me lies and enrage me / … / Adore me. Adore me / … / Arrest me. Arrest me.” But what feels like an aggressive cry for narrative attention may actually be just the beginning of the speaker’s exploration of the regularity, reliability, and power of emotion. In fact, as the collection develops, the poems carry the weight of heartbreak as well as the heft of self-realization as the speaker makes an emotive recovery. Scarlett has managed to create a work that flows at the speed of one theme. However, the individual poems fail to stand as independent works. For example, readers with no affinity for confessional poetry will feel as though the speaker is trying to take them into the specificities of a state of mind that they have no investment in: “I suppose you wonder why, my love for you / Won’t just go away? Why it is that when I am / without you my heart tears anew each day?” The work might have also benefited from rigorous streamlining; some poems feel unnecessary or might have been better as components of a different chapbook or full-length work. In “Chemical Soak,” for instance, Scarlett provides definitions of “flirtation,” “attraction,” and “infatuation,” among other terms, but these less-than-revolutionary definitions add little to nothing to the work as a whole. The collection’s biggest flaw lies in its show-and-tell approach, relying too much on the loaded history of its subject. The minimal amount of formal and thematic experimentation causes the poems to fall flat each time they suggest potentially interesting imagery: “Our love is now a wine stain / A crimson gash on my / White carpet.”
A collection that draws on tedious tropes of confessional poetry.