Collected Poems & Stories: By Mallory Whitten, 101 pgs. By Indiana Laub

Jul 27, 2015

Mallory Whitten’s poems range from vulgar haiku to surreal dream recaps to transcripts of emotional phone calls. They are hyper-confessional, painfully, casually intimate to a degree that may only come this naturally to those generations that grew up—are growing up—with unlimited access to social media. There’s an expectation of constant oversharing at the same time as there’s this anxiety over constructing and maintaining the ideal internet persona. Just funny enough, just nonchalant enough, self-deprecating but not too vulnerable. Whitten’s writing feels most likely to resonate with the kind of people who have been navigating this balance since maybe middle school—the kind of people who might write multiple drafts of tweets about farting. Ironically, one doesn’t get the sense that most of these pieces have been subjected to a particularly fussy editing process (except, I suppose, the actual curated selection of tweets that makes an appearance). I don’t mean that as a criticism; Whitten seems to thrive in candid and mundane moments. Stories of anxiety, addiction, retail drudgery, and adolescent misadventure are steeped in her droll, offhand tone. Even the type, sans-serif and lowercase, lends itself to that feeling of reading a 3 AM email from an impulsive friend. But there’s genuine thoughtfulness in Whitten’s voice. “Why You Shouldn’t Be a High School Algebra One Teacher” and “Knife Girl” are two of the collection’s more narrative pieces, and probably the strongest. They bring back heartbreaking and startlingly familiar memories of public school, pushed down so far they’re like weird dreams you didn’t think you could still piece together. Whether you were a kid on the bus decades or months ago, it’s hard not to recognize some kind of truth in those stories. –Indiana Laub (Monster House Press,

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