TW/CW: addiction, mental illness, trauma
Review written by Rachael Crosbie
Are you hoping to relive the late 90s/early 2000s with an autumn breeze, the smell of Scholastic Book Fair catalogues, VHS tapes, AOL Messenger chat logs, Smashmouth's "All Star", and so much more? Then, these memories will be re-examined by the "there after" conceived youth and teenage years, by the landscape of your suburban gothic hometown that you couldn't wait to run from, even if that meant you end up in a new place that's equally suburban gothic. Or maybe you managed to escape to the city, but it doesn't matter because you will always dream in gothic suburbia.
Besides nostalgia, Wolf Girls Vs. Horse Girls by Catherine Weiss offers vulnerability in other ways, namely "desire, fatness, addiction, queerness, mental illness, family, [and] trauma" (Game Over Books). This full-length poetry collection examines two parts of an individual's life: girlhood and what comes after. The poems are uniquely written in a modern day confessional style, making it a must-read for those new to poetry and those who are seasoned readers. After all, Andrew McNeil Publishing could only wish they found this book before Game Over Books because Weiss manages to do exactly what the majority of McNeil's catalogue could only dream of: retelling hard truths and trauma through a poetic style that is both accessible and daring.
The most memorable and powerful poems are: "why i don't eat fruit", "fervor", "driving around my hometown", "the only time i'm not in love is when we play settlers of catan", "where i went, october 2012", "confinement", and "recovery instructions for people who never finish what they start". Every poem commands language and form in a way that demands the reader's full attention.
"why i don't eat fruit" is the opening poem of the entire book. It alludes to childhood trauma, specifically potential molestation, by likening the odd texture of fruit to skin and dissociation of living in that skin: "so it's a texture thing then / i will probably say probably / but i will be thinking of / the texture of porcelain / the texture of wet skin / the texture of all the times i have vanished". This poem contextualizes quite a few of the recurring themes in the chapbook, especially those that consider the body as a state of being and a state of setting (never settling).
Other poems that were listed dive into forms that feel like they were designed specifically for those poems, especially with how "fervor" is a golden shovel of "All Star" by Smash Mouth, "the only time i'm not in love is when we play settlers of catan" and "confinement" are contrapuntals, and "recovery instructions for people who never finish what they start" is a found poem constructed of first steps from random WikiHow articles.
Above all, this book handles distressing and vulnerable themes with the utmost care and understanding. Your inner child will heal, too, and feel heard when you read this book.