It scares me when people say I’m sweet because I’m not. I’m bitter enough to burst, half-sick with rage on my good days. I wish someone hated him the way I did, so that I could stop, so that I could get rid of this fury that rots & blooms inside of me. This is a terrible way to think: if you really loved me you’d want him dead. I’m so tired of boys saying I’ll kill him because they never follow through. It’s just a loud thing to say before they try to touch me and then I’m left with him in my head: laughing, rolling his eyes” (Nicola Maye Goldberg).
WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE? is a fever dream of the confessions of women just like me: teenagers or women in their early twenties, losing and finding themselves at the same time. They are girls who are jaded and too old and too young, angry and fucked up and frightened and poetic, throwing around phrases like “façade of escapades” (Gabby Giullano). It’s a bit like a “best of” review of tumblr word posts. If well-curated wounded female poetry is your thing, Sara Sutterlin has the hookup. WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE? is by the girls, for the girls, except we would find you calling us “girls” patronizing. We are women, or at least we might be some day soon.
This collection felt intimately familiar to me for two reasons. The first is that one of my friends from college is listed in the table of contents, her poetry just as powerful as the prose I got to know during a shared creative writing course. The second is that this is poetry I could have written myself (if I were a better poet). Every piece about thinly veiled (or not veiled at all) emotional abuse, about struggling to be strong enough, about driving in endless loops around our hometowns, about being raped, about the entitlement of (white) teenage boys, about the value of female friendship in the face of misogyny, about loving a man who under no circumstances is worthy of that love… it’s basically the past decade of my life in an ebook.
I hope you fall in love for real because I know you don’t deserve it but I’m giving you credit, I’m begging you to change because she is fucking delicate.
I hope you get better too” (Devin Holt).
Trauma and rage have a way of fragmenting language in such a manner that poetry becomes necessary—prose is too linear to manage in the thick of things at their worst. Maybe that’s why this collection is light on variety. I would have loved more barbed memoir-style prose like Cherry Styles’s ‘I Shaved My Head In January Look At Me Now.’ That’s my own preference as a reader; I find prose stabilizing, especially when it is as direct and grungy/sexy as the line “You gently pressed your thumb against my throat and I instinctively tilted my head back; on your command I followed you into the toilets.”
But the poetry—shit, dude, the poetry:
Don’t pity me. You don’t know how much
strength it took to make myself weak for you. I
will no longer cut myself in half just so you can
complete me” (A Jordyn).
Like, what is there I can even say about how amazing that is? About how necessary that is? Poetry about heartbreak gets dismissed and undermined, especially when it is written by young women, but it is lifesaving from one survivor to another. Maybe it’s about sexual assault, maybe it’s about a bad breakup, maybe it’s about anorexia, maybe it’s about abuse. To borrow a popular John Green quote floating around right now, pain demands to be felt. In my experience, the best way to feel it is to bleed it out through text. A close second is to read the works of others who also endured. That way you are no longer alone.
i’m doing whatever i set my mind to,
feeling fear like a temporary breeze
and stepping boldly off the plank despite it
i am Wendy and i am Peter
i have faith that i’ll swoop down and catch me” (Kelly Deane)
WHAT KIND OF TROUBLE? is available for purchase and download here. Buy it, read it, and then call your best friend and tell her you love her (and thank her for always pointing out you could do better than the assholes you dated during college). Best dollar you’ll spend all day.
Also check out my review of Sutterlin’s ebook NO LONGER MINE: INTERVIEWS WITH EX BOYFRIENDS.