This somber debut collection of poems recounts the perils of growing up in modern times.
Gray directs her verses at a younger generation of readers that’s familiar with the angst of growing up in a harsh, unforgiving world. Using allusions to contemporary media, such as the Harry Potter series’ Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the sci-fi TV show Doctor Who, these dark, emotional poems reveal a disturbing portrait of a lovelorn, lonely speaker whose rich imagination provides solace for the cruelty of classmates or former lovers. The verses are often proselike in form, pulling readers into the worlds they describe with long lines, such as these from “The Trade of Heart-Breaking”: “I would carry all those broken hearts, but I already have one beating in my chest and I can’t afford to be the bearer of the broken hearts. // I just step on each one in an attempt to make them evaporate.” Occasionally, though, the speaker’s complaints verge on the banal and clichéd, as in “Twisted Work of Art”: “He’s like a drug that she just keeps going back to. She can’t get him out of her head. She hears him in every song she listens to. She reads him in every book, watches him in every movie, every TV show.” The book’s expressions of anger, unhappiness, and self-hatred can be unsettling; in “Too Fat for My Image,” for example, the speaker ends by saying, “I need to be perfect. / If I’m not perfect, / I’m nothing.” One gets the feeling that the poems in this book were inspired by self-expression and song lyrics rather than by a sustained study of contemporary poetry. However, there are bright spots. “Wide Eyes,” for example, has a cleanness and simplicity of expression that’s reminiscent of e.e. cummings and provide a much-needed break from emotional cries of existential pain and sorrow.
A book powered by resentment and anger that will speak to readers who view poetry as expressive rather than contemplative.