This book was like a road trip with a friend that you should only really see for a lunch occasion, with another friend as a buffer. It was a mess of hurt to slosh through. Word to the wise, don’t read a poetry collection of love and heartache when you still have to listen to Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” on repeat for the occasional evening.
I haven’t read any other of Lang Leav’s books, but I saw Lullabies all over #bookstagram, and who doesn’t love a lullaby? I like listening to the rain when I sleep because there’s something about the whisper of a raindrop skimming a closed window. This book, though, is a rocket taking off in your chest. It makes you weep on pg. 3 and then you can’t get yourself together until pg. 37. The very first poem, “Her Words” is written to every girl out there that ever wanted a boy to love the nerdy way she wrote his name in cursive in her notebook, circled in a collection of different sized hearts.
“Love a girl who writes
and live her many lives;
you have yet to find her,
beneath her words of guise.”
This is a poetry collection that gives meaning to Salinger’s famous quote, “She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together.” Lang Leav has constructed a collection for all the broken-hearted women, the story-tellers, and the girls who lunch gossips, the book clubs, and the girls who wish someone would ask them out in the produce section, the ones that the girl’s remember, and every single one they want to forget even though they can look at just something like windshield wipers and want to cry. It’s a book, at the core, about love and the many ways we hold it, carry it or worship it. Leav is clear in her mantra of love, but shows the ways too, that it can decay and sour. I would argue that this book is best read just after falling in love, or just after leaving, which is all of us, all the time.
Post-breakup, I especially loved the poem “Signposts.” There was also the following line from “Thoughts of You:”
“There were times when I was with him and it was too much. Does that make sense? When someone stirs a world of emotion in you and it’s so intense you can barely stand to be with him.”
Other than feeling really loved throughout this text, I didn’t really pay attention to the structure of the book. I don’t really understand the sectioning and I think that’s okay. I think the sections are more a symbol of Leav’s love life, and less something for the reader to hold onto as they read. I was very interested in her words and how she constructs the images, but less so with her rhythms and word choice. She has constant images of the sea which I found cliche, even when she used them in a new way (love and the sea has been done before, and no one can compete with it more than Hemingway’s Old Man, Captain Ahab, and poor Virginia Woolf with her rock-filled petticoat pockets). Her man should have just bought her a nice, straight robe.
Leav’s rhythm was often unexpected, but in an off sort of way. You can’t set up the reader’s expectations with a set rhythm and then the last line throws that rhythm completely off. Writers can do that when the line is meant to jar the reader with word choice, meaning, or conclusions, but just to have an off-set rhythm isn’t fair to the reader’s flow. This is almost my only negative critique of Leav and I think that’s more because her content speaks to every high school heart that grows into a woman of boundaries, or window-shopping, of loose loving and rolled-up sleeves, or one of loneliness. It’s hard to get a grasp on what kind of love you can give in all its forms and stages, but I think Leav’s volume, Lullabies, captures that unknowing.
The best thing I can say is that this book is that spirit of love. There’s a poem for every single one of my ex-boyfriends, my dating trajectory and series of unfortunate events. Down to the use of “thigh” in a poem, Leav read me like a stanza. I immediately remembered one of my favorite ex-boyfriends (we had the best stories) who was stabbed and ended up with a lightning bolt scar on his thigh. I constantly tell my students that it’s the specifics that make a poem, a reader doesn’t clutch at the general, but the small moment specifics that are so true to the speaker that they become true for the reader. Leav does this, and in many ways captures the loving feelings of a generation of girls that in all their willpower refuse to collapse in a world where we still have conversations about men being dominant. Clearly, if we continue to write this poetry of the heart, our tomboyish flutters will win us a good conquer.