Shy Watson's Cheap Yellow is all sharp corners. Like, the corners you knick hard with your leg and find later leave bruises. I mean this in a good way. I mean I knew I would like it right away when I read the short poem:
i don't know how to better communicate it
you are a sailboat
& i am nothing at all
It gave me the same bruising feeling I got from Atwood's short poem:
You fit into me
like a hook into an eye
a fish hook
an open eye
That feeling of being undermined is particular and memorable. The floor falling out from under you. That feeling that there was maybe kind of a trapdoor underneath you all along. So many of Watson's poems make me feel exactly this way. Pained and jumbled and aching in a perfectly honest kind of way.
There's building momentum in these turns -- an escalating -- a getting-in-your-face-ness -- a coming-to-terms-with. Both of these moments have that intense attraction-repulsion energy to them. As the speaker is being engaged with by another - someone worrying over scratching your bites, the intimacy of being "in me" - she pushes back: HARD. How has Watson written lines that feel both strongly confessional and steely? Armored and opening? They leave me feeling like someone had told me the truth while shoving me hard in the stomach.
But that's not the only kind of energy present in this book.
Other times, it's gentler.
I mean, I drew a smiley and a heart. I couldn't help it. The energy is softer in these moments. Cautious, appreciative. Ironic and smiling. Attentive. This shift in dynamics helps complicate the persona driving these poems. Like she's pulling over and taking in something scenic. These moments are warm. They're giving little looks. One way this collection keeps reeling me in is because of all the angles: loving, being loved, being not-loved, being not-loving.
At one point, I caught myself writing on the page what these poems were, if I were to categorize them, and what I wrote was:
Little heart-palpitation poems--
Jump scare poems--
Why were the short ones zinging me the most? I guess because I feel like it's SO MUCH HARDER to accomplish in one or two lines what it usually takes a whole poem to do. They are a little like haikus in that way. Thumb-tac poems. Lightning-strike poems. There's something unfathomable about the feeling I get from the so short ones. Like:
if she's happy i'm happy
but what if she's not
In a lot of ways, this collection gives the mirror-in-a-mirror feeling. In exploring the self, one has to confront who she thinks she is, who she actually is, who she wants to be, who she used to think she wanted to be. Perception is inherently fallible. Perception is constantly changing. One of my favorite moments in the collection comes from the poem "4th of july," exploring exactly this:
Or a couple of poems later, in "phelps grove":
the world seems
Or a poem from the middle, the little intrusions of "how great i can be if":