Review: FIND THE GIRL by Lightsey Darst

Oct 15, 2010Archive, Reviews

Find the Girl

Lightsey Darst


Coffeehouse Press

88 pages


The sexualization of women—and a girl’s desire to achieve power by becoming an object of sexual interest—is one prevalent sign of a seriously ailing culture. In drawing the reader’s attention to this symptom in Find the Girl, a self described “expose of girlhood, obsession and the CSI industry,” one has to wonder what the aim is. Poems about the treacherous, seductive, terrifying coming-of-age years for a girl is one of the book’s loosely-constructed narratives; the other parallel story is a narrating crime scene investigator, looking for the body of a missing girl.

The type of girlhood/womanhood depicted here is stock – mood rings, my little ponies, cherry panties, Bloody Mary, frog dissection, going into the woods with boys—and maybe that’s the point. The girl is one-dimensional, a composite of the common experience of girlhood: “always in a sundress she’ll spin, always/ in that unbroken field—”  As a corpse, she can hardly intervene on her own behalf, no?

But the buttressing parallel narrative, the poems narrated by the Crime Scene Investigator—is stock too: “I’ll unfold/ “almost like murdering her again” / to// unpack, to sift/ the varied dirt of her, notes & shreds” this autopsy of a girl extracted from the earth still wearing a charm bracelet on her “slim” radius and ulna. The reader doesn’t learn anything strange or compelling about the art and/or science of crime scene investigation, the shadowy mind of the investigator—the reader is not even substantially exposed to the barbarous and lovely technical language of anatomy and autopsy. Radius and ulna? That’s it?

Throughout these, Darst is always conjuring famous female archetypes: Helen of Troy, JonBenet Ramsey, Kore, the victims of Jack the Ripper. Darst seems to reanimate these women to provide commentary and her own kind of insight into the dark girl-world she’s written. From “Snow White”:

–I’d include more news

if I knew it. For she was a thin little thing,
hardly more than a peep coming from that carmine mouth—

yes ma’am, I’d like to bite the shiny apple, please.
A disease will fill the airwaves until spring and then a girl

and then a war.

It’s an interesting conceit, I just wish Darst’s historical figures were less stock, and struck some posture–either in relation to these parallel plots or in their own right–that didn’t concern itself so overtly with being sexy and getting attacked.

Find the Girl is somehow even less compelling than Law & Order: SVU and CSI: Asst’d, shows we love to watch because they are sick, and sinister. The bread and butter for their scriptwriters is the violently murdered beautiful young girl. Her murder gratifies us in ways we probably don’t like to think about too deeply. Find the Girl doesn’t want us to think about it either, but its definitely aiming to get us off on it.