Water, both shapeless and capable of assuming all shapes, provides the metaphor for women in this debut collection from Lily Greenberg, capturing her experience of growing up as a queer young woman in the American south.
“Can we choose our shapes?” Lily Greenberg asks in the title poem of her shattering debut collection, and she answers the question through the metaphor of water which runs throughout these poems, both shapeless and capable of taking on all shapes. “I am a geyser in the shape of a woman” her speaker declares in the opening poem, “and the time has come to never be murky again.” That pent-up energy, and that clarity, inform her work, emerging from her experience growing up as a queer young woman in the American south, a world of Jesus and Girl Scouts and cotillion, all of which the speaker simultaneously claims and rejects in search of something more fitting and true. This tripartite work functions as a construction-deconstruction-reconstruction cycle through which the speaker of these poems transforms. In the first section, SHAPE, Greenberg’s speaker slips in and out of many skins, many expectations and possibilities in various social spheres in an ongoing attempt to see herself clearly. The second section, [ ] MY MOTHER, functions as a speech-driven cutting of the psychic umbilical cord as the speaker addresses the roots of her given identity. “I am leaving you behind,” the speaker says, immediately followed by, “I will never leave you behind. / Everyone is you when I squint.” This contradictory movement is a driving force in the book as a whole, ultimately arriving to the final section OF A WOMAN, in which the speaker steps into a reconstructed feminine social sphere of love and friendship—ever mindful of the various distances involved even in intimacy. Her closing “Poem” exhorts her readers to “get real” – “It’s here / to change you, yes you – alone in your window, / are you not someone else now? I am.” After reading this book, you will be too.
Poetry. LGBTQ+ Studies. Women’s Studies.
LILY GREENBERG is a writer from Nashville, Tennessee currently living in Portland, Maine. Her work has appeared in About Place Journal, Third Coast Magazine, Hobart, and The Louisville Review, among others, and she is the 2021 recipient of the Dick Shea Memorial Award for Poetry, as judged by Jennifer Militello. IN THE SHAPE OF A WOMAN is her first book. A 2021 Breadloaf Scholar, Lily holds an MFA from the University of New Hampshire. When not writing, she enjoys brewing kombucha, wearing mittens, and going to the movies.