Play Button First Edition
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Liz Robbins's poems are smart, savvy, dangerous, and as bold as the big hoop earrings her characters are fond of wearing. Robbins does not shy away from the provocative or mischievously formal. By turns elegiac and political, poppy and poignant, Play Button reconciles the good girl with the bad girl in us all. --Denise Duhamel
Liz Robbins's Play Button never pauses, never flinches, never stops. Layers of meaning erupt from that title, and from every poem in this tight, power-packed collection. Fresh, daring, and razor-sharp, these poems don t mess around. --Jim Daniels
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The collection features a total of 56 poems, ranging in style from prose poetry to form poetry like the pantoum and the sonnet.
Many of the poems have to do with childhood or adolescence, an adult looking back at tumultuous times in youth. There's also a strong feminist motif - several of the poems address sex trafficking and almost all explore the role of the woman, playing with the dichotomy of good girl versus bad girl. The poem "Wasted Lament", for example, starts with this description:
The wrong kind of girl, she wanted the wrong kind
of men. Like most bad girls, she was divorced
from reality. Inside she was good; that's how she thought
people saw her. Inside, a child, listening to her mother
Likewise, "An American Artist Marries" clashes the societal expectations of women with reality when the woman in the poem marries, but does not give all she has to her new husband:
But even as she gives in, promises her life this
second devotion, she keeps quiet the patch
of land covered in clover and pines
she's held onto for years.
This poem is one of my favorites in the collection - it's lyrical and layered, but also has a simple facade that readers can enjoy without digging.
Robbins also incorporates Christian and religious motifs in this collection, most notably in the poems "Jesus, My Suitor," "God Poem," "Communion", and "Unwrapped".
"Unwrapped", another of my favorites, is also one of three poems in the collection that centers on the death of a teenage girl named Lauren, a good childhood friend of the poems' narrators (whom, I suspect, are all Robbins herself). "Sonnet from Memory" gives the most factual information about the tragedy:
You made the headlines - U.S. Magistrate's
Daughter Killed in I-95 Wreck -
your father still ruling over you, your fate,
his title, bold above your broken neck.
But to me, the most emotionally stirring of the Lauren poems is "Unwrapped."
In all, I highly recommend this volume of poetry. Robbins is one of the more promising up and coming poets in the United States, and it's easy to see why. Her poetry is bold, beautiful, unapologetic, and at times, controversial. I expect the poetry world will be talking more about Liz Robbins and Play Button in the future.