Sandra Simonds is the author of Mother was a Tragic Girl and Warsaw Bikini, which was a finalist for numerous prizes including the National Poetry Series.
"When I look out the window of my Winnebago I want to see a Sandra Simonds poem on the billboard before I crash. Bless her cranky pornboots."
"If Antigone was alive and decided to write some poems about the nuclear family, she would write them like Sandra Simonds. These are tough"
Sometimes there’s a book of poems that makes eyes at you and you look behind yourself to make sure the book is making eyes at you and not someone else and you turn back around to face the book and point at yourself and can’t help blushing; you can’t help feeling like the poems staring back at you touch the inner parts of your heart and you can feel the poems working their charms and you don’t want them to stop.
That’s how I feel about Sandra Simonds’s latest book, Mother was a Tragic Girl. The first poem in the book, “Used White Wife,” tells me in the first line: “It is absolutely unnecessary to write serious poetry.” And I am all, Hell, yes. In “1984 Pumpkin Pie,” when the speaker, reflecting on a Thanksgiving festival in her youth, tells me Mrs. Trachtenburg said: “`Sandra Simonds, you will be a pilgrim,´” I feel betrayed, just like she does. In the long poem/section in the middle of the book, “Strays: A Love Story,” when Wife asks the phone company what Baby said to incur such an expensive bill, they answer: “`Give me all your bears.´” Over and over.” I know the sadness, the strangeness expressed in the phone company’s monotone answer.
Beyond these personal connections I feel, I think this book is about all of us—especially if you are alive in the United States at this moment in time. Though seemingly discursive, Simonds knows us better than we know ourselves. For example, the speaker in “Dear Treatment,” ends with these lines:
the pre-theologian’s instruments, the history of institutions,
debunked theorems where men and women
sit and stare as their feet shrink
to their thighs, waiting for an answer.
Mother was a Tragic Girl is funny and sad and weird and alive. When Simonds writes, “I resent it when people tell me to / `be like the Buddha.´ / Hey, fuck you,” how can I resist the eyes this book makes at me? And when this book gets you alone in a chair or in bed, don’t resist the feeling that rises from your guts. Simonds’s poems are only working their charms, only tugging at your heartstrings. For this reader, nothing feels better.