This slim collection of poetry is supposed to be “a sort of journal of experiences and flights of imagination” covering the time between the author’s undergrad intro to poetry course and completion of her residency in pediatrics. This is the stated intent, but I think, more than that, it shows the maturation of a writer. The first section, “Sympathy for the Devil,” presumably named after the Rolling Stones song, mostly contains “the story after the story” continuations of fairytales. The words are rich, well-turned phrases, full of emotion, but also full of the clichéd bitterness and angst that is so popular among college students—who often have not had the sort of life experiences to justify the bitterness. I have read so many variants of so many fairytales, none of these were a surprise, so I merely read these poems as the well-structured creations of a beginning poet.
The second section, named as William Blake’s “Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience,” added more reality—true experience. “Anatomy, Day 1,” which speaks of “gloved hands plowing/palm-deep in wetness” was a breath of fresh air after the man-hater fairytales of the first part. Poems expand on small moments, not overwhelming themes: “Graffiti,” inspired by a message painted on a wall near train tracks; “Five O’Clock;” “Autumn Song.” We also get to see a bit more of the author as she works her own hobbies into her poetry, as in “The Knitter” or “The Cosmic Order of Thread Spools.” There are even a few more fairytale-inspired poems here, but unlike the earlier ones, these interpretations felt truer (at least to my experience).
The final section, “Spring Cleaning,” becomes even more personal. We meet the author’s cat, go for a Sunday drive, attend Easter service, and select a skein of yarn. These poems are also much lighter than the first two sections—losing the bitterness of the first—and even shaking off most of the melancholy still present in the second.
Given that my tastes in poetry (and most any other reading material) run on the joyful, even silly, side, it should not be a surprise that this section also includes my favorite poems in the collection. Overall, this collection lacks any sort of unifying or grounding theme, but it does show the growth of the writer as she learns to share her real life and emotions and moves away from those writings that, while of technical merit, merely follow a trend.