So Much Synth

Copper Canyon. May 2016. 94p. ISBN 9781556594878. $22. POETRY
Replete with references to rock musicians and other cultural icons, this fourth collection (after Our Andromeda) from National Book Critics Circle finalist Shaughnessy intimately looks at growing up female. The 28-page "Is There Something I Should Know?" describes the confusion and vulnerability of a schoolgirl taught nothing about her changing body or sex. All in couplets, the poem offers engaging writing ("Before pubescence's acrid synthesis—those 700 days—/ I was a kid: all glossy grubby greatness, jumping through// sprinklers") but too often reads like a prose essay ("I wouldn't have to diet/ or worry about my clothes or how awkward my jokes were"). Compare this to her description of her body as an adult in "Wound": "As if to woo/ not to wow.// I didn't dazzle like I expected/ to. My body,// interracial & grumous." Several poems describe love affairs, including "Gay Pride Weekend, S.F., 1992" and "Why I Stayed, 1997–2001," which honestly depicts a violent lesbian relationship. Occasionally, language and topic meld into vivid writing, yet in many places these poems lack music and metaphor. Still, when topic, insight, and language meet, the sensuality of daily life is effectively captured.
VERDICT An exciting if imperfect collection that celebrates love, gay pride, and womanhood: "Isn't blood a woman's ink?"[See Prepub Alert, 12/7/15.]
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