“Girls Like Us” Reviewed in London Grip
"Who or what, exactly, are “girls like us”?" Asks Charles Rammelkamp in his review of Hazen's latest collection for London Grip
An excerpt from the review
“Girls like us” are filled with doubt. (“The Bereaved” includes the lines, ‘It was doubt // that first defined existence. Time itself / makes no assertion.’) They struggle for a sense of purpose, crave validation in love, seek a true impression of their character. The thing is, aren’t we all like that? Hazen’s poems root out a core impulse and yearning common to so many of us, in our most secret self-assessments – in dreams, where we can no longer hide from ourselves, as if poking a sensitive tooth with the tongue to feel the pain.
The child’s game of Hide and Seek is a metaphor that recurs in these poems. The vulnerability of being alone in bed also recurs as an image, when you are face to face with your doubts (“After He Calls Me a Low-Hanging Fruit,” “Monster,” “”Taps, August 1984,” “Free Fall,” “Dream”). To sum up, the poem “Just Things” ends,
The universe is riddled with fists false logic, eggshells, viscera, regret. Am I forgiven? Will you answer that? Can anyone tell me what I’m meant to do?
But Hazen is also playful and subtle in exploring these themes of savagery and exposure. The very first poem, “Devices,” is a lesson in prosody whose illustrations make their point. “Rhyme relies on repetition:” the poem begins, ‘pink drink / big wig, tramp stamp, rank skank.’ Alliteration, metaphor, assonance (‘hot bod, dumb slut, frigid bitch.’), all illustrated with these demeaning phrases. Metonymy, synecdoche, which ‘reduces
a thing to a single part: he wants pussy, by which we must infer he wants a woman. We’ve been called so many things that we are not, we startle at the sound of our own names.
Other poems likewise have an almost roguish tone while exploring violent images. “Scene from a Horror Movie” describes a ruthless killer attacking a partly naked woman, but we understand all along that this isn’t “real.” The poem ends, ‘A gasp like hard candy / catches in my throat.’ The sonnet entitled “Why I Love Zombie Woman #6” also presents an almost balletic description of violence, from the movies. We know from the title that this is an inconsequential extra in a B film, but Hazen raises her to heroic levels. Why does she love this character?
Because when she lies in pieces, inside out, she will not know regret, or shame, or doubt.
Most of the poems in Girls Like Us are written in short, two- or three-line stanzas, which emphasize the spare, elemental quality of Hazen’s work. Sometimes they are written in rhyming couplets (“Addict”) or follow other rhyme schemes (“Alignment” – ABBA) which also tends to accentuate their direct, artful messages. In other words, there’s not a lot of clutter. She gets right to the point, the heart of the matter. And there is indeed a great deal of heart to the matter.
Elizabeth Hazen's collections Girls Like Us and Chaos Theories are now available in a special bundle . Get both collections for the price of only one. Offer ends March 15th.