Arnoldson attempts to connect present-day gender inequalities with biblical times through a mix of prose and free-verse poetry.
This debut collection examines, through a feminist lens, men’s and women’s roles as cast by secular culture and religion. It starts in prose form with an examination of biblical stories, moves on to the subject of women’s suffrage, and concludes in modern-day America. From the moment of creation, the author asserts, womankind was deemed “a copy and that smacks of inferior stamping,” while men have been drunk on power, have done as they pleased, and have shown no conscience. When Arnoldson switches to free verse, the text moves with whiplash speed to the present day to touch on the subjects of abortion, nuclear proliferation, the richest “one percent” of American society, and the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. The author name-checks influential women in history, such as Emma Lazarus, Phillis Wheatley, and “Susan B” (presumably Anthony), while questioning the amount of progress that women have made: “But what freedom did she have? Freedom with all bones and no meat.” Arnoldson also touches on politics: one poem, for instance, issues a warning to America about choosing a leader; another addresses the “hopeless mess” of the U.S. Congress. The overall emphasis on gender equality is admirable. However, the author occasionally detracts from the book’s argument with silly rhymes, such as “She needs to be autonomous, not be an Adam clone. / She can eat her own ice cream, with or without a cone.” Also, for all its good intentions, the book sometimes categorically endorses sexist claims: “Men have the unique propensity to break things and fight, / But women, their goal is simply to make things right.” The author appeals to modern audiences with pop-culture references to Game of Thrones and Psy’s 2012 single “Gangnam Style” but also leans too often on clichés, such as “when the fat lady sings,” and “They want to have their cake and eat it too.”
An uneven intellectual poetic diatribe on the war between the sexes.