The Year of the Femme by Cassie Donish is a 2018 Iowa Poetry Prize-winning collection. Donish holds a BA in English and comparative religions from the University of Washington, and an MA in human geography from the University of Oregon. She currently teaches classes at the University of Missouri in Columbia, where she’s pursuing a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing.
The collection opens with “Portrait of a Woman, Mid-Fall.” A woman alone thinks of life and dreams while at the same time autumn is in view out the window. There seems to be a trap between security — man or a dog, happiness or misery. There is a binary world that restricts dreams and time that limits choices. The yellow leaves dance on the wind while the red leaves crunch as they are crushed underfoot. Every day the number of leaves on the trees decrease and the number on the ground increase — like discarded dreams. The woman wishes she can stop the leaves from changing merely because she knows she cannot. One thing cannot exist without its opposite.
Arrival is not a rival of departure
The two have to work together to make anything happen
All the clocks move together through time
Donish uses language and creates stunning images. Poems in the second section combine memories and impressions:
Daylight glinting off dimes in the grass
Daylight, and our teeth don’t feel
Daylight on top of the city, on top
of the lake
Daylight through a sieve of fingers
Mimics the skyscrapers
“Meanwhile, in a Galaxy”
The final section, “The Year of the Femme,” revisits the concept of the binary in two-part poems. The first part consists of prose poetry, complete sentences, and formed in a near perfect block. The other element of the verse is chaotic in the arrangement of phrases and line breaks. Each half compliments the other much like arrival and departure. A wonderful collection of poetry. Truly, one of the best in contemporary poetry.
Available April 1, 2019