cover image So Much Synth

So Much Synth

Brenda Shaughnessy. Copper Canyon (Consortium, dist.), $22 trade paper (88p) ISBN 978-1-55659-487-8

Shaughnessy (Our Andromeda) finds ever new ways to rend the heart in this biting and poignant anthropological study of girlhood and adolescence. The opening poem, “I Have a Time Machine,” sets the tone for the four-part collection, simmering in the obsessive nature of regrets and paths not taken. Her lush snapshots of youth portray triumph, anger, and agony, the poet unashamed to explore the abscesses of adolescence. “Dress Form,” a first-person confessional of self-esteem and body issues, pinpoints the rationale behind such self-inflicted wounds: “Like I learned: no dress could ever be// beautiful or best if it had me in it.” Shaughnessy uses language in a way that honors the power of imagery. This depiction of girlhood is not meant to serve as a unifier of personal experiences, but as the nuanced experience of growing up as a woman of color in a world dominated by white men. This is apparent in powerhouse poems such as “Gay Pride Weekend, S.F., 1992” and “Is There Something I Should Know?” The latter, a long poem that forms the collection’s fierce core, is a sweeping love letter to the poet’s young daughter as well as a powerful indictment of rape culture and the white and/or male gaze. “This is not a book anyone wants to read,” Shaughnessy writes, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. (May)