Lucinda Watson's THE FAVORITE Gets Great Kirkus Review

Kirkus Review, August 27,2020

This debut poetry collection examines a trajectory from privileged and constrained girlhood to full maturity.

The 64 poems assembled here are grouped in three chronological sections, from childhood to the speaker’s elder years. The speaker and her family exist in a rarefied world (riding lessons, a visit to the White House) that’s strewn with traps. In the opening poem, “Road Trip,” a girl and her five sisters are “all naked in the backseat / of a 1957 Plymouth station wagon,” hot and uncomfortable on the trip to their grandfather’s house. The girls’ starched white dresses crackle in the way back: “Since we’re never / clean enough, we’ll be hauled out at a rest stop / to be straightjacketed into dresses and our mother’s / hope for acceptance.” Meanwhile, the girls’ brother “rides / shotgun and wears what he wants.” Watson’s narrative voice is deceptively simple, its underlying power achieved through such devices as well-calculated line endings that lend emphasis to words like “never” or that enact the poem’s movement, as when halting at a “rest stop.” The volume’s prose poems, in contrast, overflow their containers, giving a sense of pressured speech. Though many poems express anger or frustration, they also capture a growing appreciation of the speaker’s gifts: “Under the coral sweater / designed by Gianni Versace / sits my elegant heart beating.” Wry humor, too, leavens the collection. In the closing piece, “Adoption,” the speaker considers how well suited she would be to the British royal family: “I know how to dress and have beautiful table manners / and I really feel comfortable with a strict schedule.” The book includes a few photographs that provide a visual commentary, as with “Road Trip” being preceded by the image of a carefully dressed, beribboned girl.

Thoughtful, well-crafted poems that trace a path of self-discovery.