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Source: Review copy from publisher

Elizabeth Hazen’s Girls Like Us is a collection of poems that packs a punch from the start. (You can read the collection’s opening poem, “Devices,” and Hazen’s inspiration in last week’s guest post.)

Hazen writes about the power of language, and that power radiates through every poem in the collection. These poems are honest and brave, shocking and edgy without feeling forced. There’s a heaviness to these poems, but moments of empowerment as well.

As a woman, it was hard not to feel like the narrator was telling my story.

What simplicity
to be as silence or as air — there yet

not there. But it takes such work to disappear,
and secrets threaten to spill from you like liquor
you can’t hold. You tell yourself you’re someone else.

(from “Against Resignation”)

 

How do words —
lacking form beyond the curve of font, the flick

of tongue, the measure of my breathing — break,
so easily, a bond?

(from “Diamond”)

There were many poems like these, where a line would just hit me in the gut and I recognized myself on the page. The narrator’s experience is not exactly my own, yet I understand, have felt that precise feeling.

Know that your body may be numb awhile,

and when you see yourself revealed in paint,
note the proportions, but ignore the faint

glimmer he put in your eye that isn’t you.

(from “Times from a Nude Model”)

Hazen’s poems are personal yet universal, strong yet vulnerable, and she deftly packs so much emotion and meaning into a few words.

and though she scrapes away the corrosion, a new battery is not
enough, and the hours pass, though not exactly as before.

(from “The Clock”)

Girls Like Us is a collection of poems that begs to be read multiple times. I spent a few hours with these poems and took away so much, yet I feel I only scratched the surface. Hazen’s unflinching take on the female experience is one that I won’t soon forget.

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Giveaway

Two copies of Girls Like Us are up for grabs as part of the blog tour. To enter, you must use this Rafflecopter link. The giveaway runs July 24, 2020. You must be 18 or older and have a U.S. mailing address to qualify.

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Click the button below for more information about the book and the author, and to follow the blog tour.

Read Full Post »

My guest today is Elizabeth Hazen, whose poetry collection Girls Like Us is next on my to-read list and is one I’ve really been looking forward to. Elizabeth is here to share a little about the collection and her inspiration for the poem, “Devices.” I hope the poem makes all of you as excited to read the collection as I am. Please give Elizabeth a warm welcome!

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Girls Like Us is a collection of poems — many of which are deeply personal examinations of my own struggles — about being a female in a society that, despite notable progress, is still mired in misogyny and violence toward women. The idea for the book arose organically; I found that everything I was writing, in one way or another, questioned the roles into which I had been trying to fit myself, the conflicts I had with men, and the sense of anxiety and shame that seemed to shadow not only me, but also so many women I know.

With the 2016 election and the increasing volume of discourse around women’s rights and the doubling down on derogatory attitudes toward women by men (and women) in positions of power, what had been incidental in my poems became more intentional. That is to say, I consciously decided I wanted to write about the impact misogyny has had on me. I wanted to write my experiences for the women I know who have had similar experiences, for the men who have played roles in those experiences, for the men who would help us change things, for the victims of abusers who were finally being identified and tried for their crimes, for the girls I teach and have taught, and maybe most of all, for the girl I once was.

The #MeToo movement stirred up painful memories, but also woke in me a desire to dig deeper into the past and an acknowledgement that my experiences, while significant to me, were not unique; every woman and girl I know has experienced the negative impacts of a society that constantly is telling us who to be and who not to be, often asking us to embody contradictory personas and punishing us for failing to achieve what is impossible. I hope my audience is not limited to women, though; I hope for men to look more closely at their own complicity in this system, and to understand what so many women – their mothers, sisters, partners, daughters – have experienced, often in silence and resignation.

The first poem in the collection, “Devices,” came to me shortly after the whole “Pussygate” debacle and the subsequent reports from women who accused Trump of sexual assault. I was thinking about language and its power in both promoting possibility and also in limiting it. I thought a lot about how language, too, can be an act of violence, and one that is insidious because it is easy to dismiss as harmless – sticks and stones, and so on.

Of course, as a poet and an English teacher, a belief in the power of language is at the core of everything I do and everything I care about. I spend a lot of time each year teaching my students about figurative language and trying to impress upon them how powerful language can be. I thought about the numerous ways in which we use language to degrade women, and how the repetition of this language impacts our psyches and warps the way we see ourselves. Thus, “Devices” came to be as my own form of protest and my response to the moment.

Devices

Rhyme relies on repetition: pink drink,
big wig, tramp stamp, rank skank. Alliteration

too: Peter Piper’s pickled peppers, silly
Sally’s sheep – silly trumping smart because

the lls create consonance. Assonance
repeats vowel sounds: hot bod, dumb slut, frigid bitch.

Even his line — “Girl, we’ll have a fine time”—
or her refusals — “No! Don’t!” In metaphor

we compare two things. Suppose a man calls
a woman fox; we understand this is

not literal. Same goes for pig, dog, chick.
Same goes for octopus, as in, “His hands

were all over me.” Metonymy relies
on association: suits, skirts, that joke

about the dishwasher –If it stops working,
slap the bitch! Synecdoche 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.

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Thank you, Elizabeth, for being my guest today and for sharing that powerful poem!

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About Girls Like Us

Girls Like Us is packed with fierce, eloquent, and deeply intelligent poetry focused on female identity and the contradictory personas women are expected to embody. The women in these poems sometimes fear and sometimes knowingly provoke the male gaze. At times, they try to reconcile themselves to the violence that such attentions may bring; at others, they actively defy it. Hazen’s insights into the conflict between desire and wholeness, between self and self-destruction, are harrowing and wise. The predicaments confronted in Girls Like Us are age-old and universal—but in our current era, Hazen’s work has a particular weight, power, and value.

Goodreads | Amazon

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About the Author

Elizabeth Hazen

Elizabeth Hazen is a poet, essayist, and teacher. A Maryland native, she came of age in a suburb of Washington, D.C. in the pre-internet, grunge-tinted 1990s, when women were riding the third wave of feminism and fighting the accompanying backlash. She began writing poems when she was in middle school, after a kind-hearted librarian handed her Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. She has been reading and writing poems ever since.

Hazen’s work explores issues of addiction, mental health, and sexual trauma, as well as the restorative power of love and forgiveness. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, American Literary Review, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, The Threepenny Review, The Normal School, and other journals. Alan Squire Publishing released her first book, Chaos Theories, in 2016. Girls Like Us is her second collection. She lives in Baltimore with her family.

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Giveaway

Two copies of Girls Like Us are up for grabs as part of the blog tour. To enter, you must use this Rafflecopter link. The giveaway runs July 24, 2020. You must be 18 or older and have a U.S. mailing address to qualify.

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Click the button below for more information about the book and the author, and to follow the blog tour.

Read Full Post »