cover image Broadax


Amy Lawless. Octopus, $16.95 trade paper (132p) ISBN 978-0-9861811-5-3

Lawless (My Dead) takes Annie Dillard’s advice that “You must go at your life with a broadax” (a quote used as the epigraph for Lawless’s book), examining violence from a number of perspectives. She confronts her own inner violence of thought and feeling, as well as that of outside forces, particularly male violence: “I don’t like it when men show anger. So I should tell you: the Incredible Hulk has terrified me for as long as I can remember.” Lawless’s examples go beyond fiction, including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa. She refers frequently to sisterly torments in the aggrieved but reverential manner of a younger sibling: “Her suggestion strikes me now as pedagogical in nature. Die now.” Lawless uses hairpin shifts in tone and content effectively to conjure absurd humor. One poem begins with a description of a scene from Willie Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and ends with the observation that “we aislewalk to wed annihilation.” In the comically plaintive “Fear of Missing Out,” Lawless imagines a party she wasn’t invited to at which her friends “snorted gold and hugged puppies without displacing their perfectly coiffed hair.” Lawless’s ax strikes at misogyny and its inherent brutality in this exceedingly clever collection on being fearless in a world where fear is weaponized to keep women compliant. (Nov.)