cover image Double Jinx

Double Jinx

Nancy Reddy. Milkweed (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (84p) ISBN 978-1-57131-477-2

In her debut collection, Reddy plays with a variety of forms as she weaves sharp images and dark narratives about femininity, faith, and family. Exploring the sinister side of girlhood/womanhood, Reddy imagines Nancy Drew facing off with a lookalike: “She’s a foxtrot. She’s a jinx and you can’t speak,” or perhaps “she’s the real Nancy/ and you’re a costume party.” Addressing the more quotidian anxiety of female adolescence, one poem’s subject is reminded of how “Saturdays were dancing days” when the “boys danced slow with other girls, your homely cousins/ and your classmates.” There are allusions to Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Helen of Troy, whose less-pretty sister “stays home and simmers.” A series of epistles alternately address a former lover and his current partner, and Reddy also investigates a familial cycle of violence: “For a year my father beat anything that moved,” and “My father’s father was a woodstove. He snapped and roared.” In the sonnet crown “Our Wilderness Period,” she delivers a bleak parable about belief, sin, and a people abandoned by God for which the speaker, another jealous sister, feels responsible. Reddy channels the vibe and energy of Plath and Sexton, but it’s her arresting language that’s the real draw here. [em](Sept.) [/em]