Whirlwind is one woman’s frank, witty, mordant, sexy look at the breakup of a marriage and its emotional aftermath. With her characteristic linguistic play and mixture of poetic registers and styles, Sharon Dolin takes her readers on an off-the-tracks emotional ride through the whirlwind that goes by the name of divorce. Hang on tight. Here poems are never merely confessional, but use formal aplomb to ride the white-heat rage, hurt, denial, reflection, regret, wistfulness, desire, and sexual passion as they go hurtling through the many stages of grief after the death of a relationship and the rebirth of a more vital self. Dolin tackles difficult subjects unflinchingly in her poems: such as betrayal and the shame of the one being betrayed, being a parent within a volatile breakup, as well as some startling poems on the reawakening of sexuality and an attention to the natural world and politics. In her poem that won a Pushcart Prize, she dons the mask of the Furies to confront her ex-husband and his lover. A journalist of her own heart, Sharon Dolin has written a brazen collection that seethes with the pressure of a story to tell: cathartic and thrilling in equal measure.
The latest from Dolin (Burn and Dodge) departs from her previous work in its forceful sadness, and in the unity of its themes: everything in it examines Dolin's divorce, the end of her marriage, her husband's affair, her anger and self-isolation, or, in the closing sheaf of poems, her new lover and their erotic rebirth. Consistent venom, recurrent bleak humor, and an overt awareness of precedent inspire Dolin's variety of forms: a litany, a ghazal, Dantesque unrhymed narrative tercets ("To the Furies Who Visited Me in the Basement of Duane Reade"), syllabics in homage to Marianne Moore, step-down lines like William Carlos Williams's, and a volume-ending tribute to Federico Garcia Lorca ("Blue how you'll ride me blue"). One of the best pieces builds up a lattice of puns: "When I lacked/ desire my love unlatched// his key from me and soon/ I lacked a lackey. Deserted,/ unstirred, to no sir inured." Despite all these stratagems, though, the collection can feel more like a prose memoir than poetry: "Why is it I feel shame for his having left?" one page begins. Some readers may be disappointed by Dolin's directness; others may see themselves in her travails, and find both delight and relief.