Some Girls, Winner of the 2014 White Pine Press Poetry Prize
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Some Girls, the first poetry collection by Janet McNally, offers startling imagery and fresh takes on figures from the Western world's collective imagination. Often tempered with a dry humor, the poems in Some Girls explore the speaker’s twin concerns: her brand new baby daughter and her charismatic and troubled friend Maggie, who was recently in a coma, “try[ing] on other lives.” The speaker retraces her teenage years, hoping to find a way to save Maggie with familiar touchstones, transformed in adulthood. Fairy tales and myths weave through the collection, showing what happens after dead or sleeping heroines wake up, and demonstrating the many ways a girl can get lost. Here, the Maenads go to rehab, Persephone is pregnant, Eurydice goes straight from the underworld to a diner in New York, and Rapunzel sees the world from the Empire State Building. These poems allow their figures to break free from "glass caskets" and other burdens, giving their "girl stories" new endings.
Praise for Some Girls:
"Some Girls is full of strange and lovely images, quirky humor, and an uncanny insight into the classic myths and fairy tales that reveal these stories to be as true and revelatory as ever. The past and the present, the personal and the universal, are braided with surprising and lush language. The great poet Stanley Kunitz said we have to avoid not only cliches of language, but cliches of thought and these poems succeed in that. Janet McNally is a fresh and original voice."
— Ellen Bass
These poems chart with a rare grace and lyric skill the traffic between the plainspoken, ordinary moment and the visionary one. Every page brings surprises and pleasures. This is a lived life, with its memories, its revelations. And through music, craft and the sheer power of language we are invited not just to observe it but to share it.
— Eavan Boland
Janet McNally’s poems bring us on a journey through layers of consciousness and somnolence, where the here and now of the present moment coexist with elsewheres and otherwheres from the dreamtime of the human race. What if the world we live in, with its freights of identity — mother, sister, lover, friend — is also the world where the grammar of myth and fairytale is real, as powerful as childbirth, as motherhood, as learning to be human? What if the wind that knocks down cherryblossom petals is also the wind off the stars that sweeps new souls down to our aching earth? Wouldn’t it be good to have poems that weave in and out of this multi-level world, poems where Persephone and a girl remembered from childhood can hold their ground with, speak to and listen to, oracles and wise women? Well, it would indeed be good, and here are those poems.
— Paula Meehan
In Janet McNally’s first collection, some girls are made of sugar and spice, and then there’s the rest of us: girls made of clay, of doll parts and wires, of scientific experiment, of dividing cells and ocean tides. The world they live in is one of myth and fairy tale with the gloss worn off, where Maenads go to AA meetings, Snow White’s remains are rediscovered at an archeological dig, and Scheherazade and Salome share a smoke. These girls, like the poems they inhabit, are sharp, clear-eyed, and penetrating. In Some Girls, there may be no easy Happily Ever Afters, but there is, happily, always an after.
— Rebecca Hazelton