cover image Cruel Futures

Cruel Futures

Carmen Giménez Smith. City Lights, $15.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-87286-758-1

Giménez Smith (Milk and Filth) seeks release from the pressures of societal expectations in this collection of brief yet powerful poems. She depicts the myriad ways that a woman’s sense of self is at the mercy of assigned gender roles. “I grew up on the edge/ of your electrified fence/ like a weed,” Giménez Smith writes, “I live on the corner of identity/ and shadow.” She moves from youth to midlife and motherhood, shifting perspective between insider and outsider, and picking out the “thousand points of light” that pierce the blurry borderlands where nature and nurture collide. She links the concept of becoming a “monster” to women’s defiance of prescribed roles, their need to break out of which makes them dangerous: “I’m a monster/ of my own making.” In “Dear Medusa,” Giménez Smith treats the epistle’s subject as a fallen hero and a source of strength who gave a “gift/ to pre-feminism.” She writes, “You had enormous power, which people/ called a curse, but it made you one of the first witches.” Cultural phenomena such as marriage and television come under scrutiny, and she handles mental illness issues with great care, particularly bipolar disorder and dementia. Giménez Smith’s crisp lyrics and imagery highlight ever-present threats to female personhood and autonomy. (Apr.)