girl show by Kristy Bowen
Black Lawrence Press, 2013; 60 pp
Reviewed by Rebecca Ligon


In her fourth full-length collection, girl show, Kristy Bowen dazzles and delights. Separated into three sections, Bowen’s poems are whimsical with a dash of darkness, conjuring images of blue tulle, a woman inside a wooden horse, hearts made of envelopes, and carnival curiosities. Commonplace activities are juxtaposed against those generally reserved for classic sideshow attractions: a Ouija board spelling out names, a mermaid tank, fortune tellers, and bird girls. girl show dwells upon the roles of mother and daughter, specifically a mother who is more beguiling enchantress than comforting maternal figure. This is most evident in “locks”:

… In the pool hall,
most men know the inside of her mouth by
touch. Know the scent of her hair by the
approximation of daylilies. She opens
their bodies one after another in the dark,

holds sparklers in her teeth two at a time.
By morning, a suitcase floats the banks
of the river, empty except for shot glass
and a woman’s red heel.

Bowen’s poems entice and entertain, glimmering like sequins in the night. girl show examines family dynamics, domesticity, the human body as spectacle and attraction, and the real and surreal aspects of growing up in a world where nothing is as it seems.