Tell This to Girls is a series of poems about an abused and neglected child, and the damage done to her life and growth thereby.
The poems are written in a variety of forms, some of them quite esoteric, and arranged in chronological order (as far as I could tell – it isn’t always quite clear).
The works are subtle, mysterious, and profound – and they are also quite chilling. This book is a clear example of how a fine poet can draw a great deal of meaning and feeling from a few very simple, very short lines. The poet rarely explicitly spells out what she is saying, and leaves a great deal to the reader’s imagination, which adds to the force of the poem by forcing the reader to participate directly and viscerally in Annie’s life and feelings.
The subject matter is painful, a cry from a young girl’s heart, and it cannot help but disturb the reader, as it should. The diversity of poetic forms paradoxically adds to the book’s unity of feeling, giving a sense of multiple windows looking out on the same courtyard. The last poem, “Panic Annie: Passing it On,” is particularly poignant in its implications, using only a few words but leaving behind an impression of a lifetime of pain, and a heartfelt desire to see other girls spared.
Sometimes the poems are a bit too subtle, and leave the reader a bit too much in the dark, wondering precisely what was going on behind them. The feelings are often clearer than the actual events, which may be a deliberate stylistic choice (and is certainly a valid one). Still, this is a well-crafted, heartbreakingly vivid set of poems, well worth a read by anyone whose heart can bear it.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader