Though Shanna Compton's second full-length book will probably get noticed first for its quasi-gender studies focus, the ironic tone and muscularly discursive lines of For Girls (& Others) mark it as first-rate poetry first, a lesson in articulating individual identity in a public sphere.
Compton owns her project--a kind of contemporary primer for girls that, in revealing how far we've come, indicates we haven't strayed far enough from the ideas of the 19th-century handbook that serves as impetus for some of the poems. Luckily, we have Compton's voice to help guide us: "Might you unlearn / to resent the joy / the world takes in you, // learn to return its gaze." The ending of "Pride in Having Small Feet" sets up the interesting tension of employing the rhetorical style of these outdated manuals in the service of offering some real insight. Moments like these, handled with grace and forcefulness, define the book, and provide the truest sense of a purpose here.
Lingustic virtuosity is a solid draw as well. Those who've read Compton's first collection, Down Spooky, already know her to be adept at torquing language in a way that reveals not simply multiple meanings, but multiple registers. "The Dome Is It" is a good illustration of Compton's ability to move into a realm where language becomes a reference to itself, where moods are the words used to describe them:The opposite of no withinThroughout, Compton uses syntax and lineation to provide some of the punch. In "Opening Address," she begins the book with a pronouncement about girls "upon whom the universe / bestows fullness / in all the right places." Both biblical sounding and funny, it's a good read on the tone used throughout the book. Simultaneously reverent and irreverent, For Girls (& Others) is a complex work on identity and the forces we all work against to assert it.
the curved, complete shape
of your dreamed conveyance.
Everything you've said lately
so similar to immediate
but not quite so.
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