cover image Hothouse


Karyna McGlynn. Sarabande, $14.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-941411-45-2

McGlynn (I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl) embraces the spectacle that is the first-person pronoun as she probes the possibilities of a performative and narrative-driven voice. At its core, the collection is an exploration of 21st-century femininity and gendered experience, though the poems are peppered with early Hollywood tropes and reminiscences—not all fond—of girlhood and adolescence. Many of McGlynn’s stronger lines (“I catch my silvered reflection/ in the open fridge and wince”) belong firmly to the confessional lineage, but McGlynn casually flirts with camp and laces her poems with self-deprecation: “She takes a swig from a beer with three butts in it./ She orders the shrimp scampi/ and feels real sophisticated.” Cameos by screen starlets such as Veronica Lake and Marlene Dietrich suggest that McGlynn seeks to interrogate and engage the male gaze as she participates in traditions of female burlesque (“I say, Audience, O Audience! Why do you seek to destroy me?”). There is also an element of a tug-of-war between the sexes that marks the collection, like a “he said, she said” story: “I hope you’re happy with yourself./ This is what happens, I said. You’re histrionic./ If it’s any consolation, I hate myself.” McGlynn confronts demons with verve, though some readers may wish for a little more seriousness. (June)