The first poem in Shy Watson’s chapbook, my parents were going to give me your name if i was born a boy, is a tricky little customer. It reads like a text message yet has qualities of a haiku persuasion.
in a thai restaurant
in austin texas i
wish you were here
(from sunday 3.13.16, p12)
I won’t upset those funny buggers, whose literary concern centres around the traditions and structures of poetry, by claiming the text as the new haiku; but damn it, this text-message poem does honour certain haiku traditions. It is built on two juxtaposing images, captures a moment and hints at more.
The book is made up of 23 poems, all of which have a date attached to their titles – presumably signifying their date of conception – starting on the 13th of March 2016 and finishing on the 28th of May the same year. During this time span our author chronicles an infatuation, and text messages, Twitter and Facebook are as ubiquitous as her crush. What’s interesting here is the opposing nature of the subject matter, and the chosen form with which it is expressed. Social media often makes the private public to detrimental affect, whereas poetry is often at its most moving when its practitioners bare something of themselves, that would under other circumstance, be covered up.
flirt with me on facebook
my parents were going to
give me your name if i was born a boy
i know i’m not allowed to
but when i’m not allowed to do something
i always do
(from today i tweeted “do y’ever wonder why a crush is called a crush lol no” 3.16.16, p5)
Watson has a keen eye for irony and she uses it with a good measure of deprecation as she pulls apart her own infatuation and finds it lacking in both depth and reason.
…I’m smoking a cigarette
which isn’t a line to make me sound cool
because cigarettes don’t make me feel cool
they just make me feel good
and i’m craving that right now
to be honest
honest writing feels like a celebrity taking a shower
half that line is a lie
(from wednesday 3.16.16, p6)
Essentially these poems are representative of fantasy; a fantasy which loses its appeal as it becomes a reality. Despite depression not being mentioned, this book speaks volumes about the depressed person. It would be a stretch to describe it as a commentary on inner anguish, but underneath the sassy humour, there is a profound sense of empty sadness.
my friends had a blizzard in denver yesterday
i had a flurry here today
it carried over
my orchid is dying because i look at it
and know that it needs water
but i stay seated
(from thursday 3.24.16, p14)
By recording her brief obsession, with all its sorrow and silliness, Watson makes comment on the loneliness of a generation. Her candour is conversational, but it is an inner conversation; almost to the point where the reading feels intrusive. As though I have found her phone and hidden myself away with it so I can read all her text-message haikus and other secrets before handing it back.
My parents were going to give me your name if i was born a boy, is a personal account with a universal reach. Its poetry embraces and scathes modernity. Shy Watson’s narrative is executed with a prudent economy of words, using each one to good affect. She draws her reader in by layering contrasting atmospheres onto the page. Her humour is melancholic and her self-depreciation is a cultural reflection. Most importantly of all, though, she bares something of herself that would, under other circumstances, be covered up.
Title: My parents were going to give me your name if I was born a boy
Author: Shy Watson
Publisher: Bottle Cap Press
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