What to Wear Out offers a portrait of a mind corseted, hemmed in by the pathological norms of white femininity and consumerism in an age of financial precarity and environmental ruin. This collection charts the ways in which we “knock ourselves out”—with drinking, shopping, sex, and melodrama—to avoid confronting traumatic experience or even one’s own “flaws.” What to Wear Out explores tragic ambivalence, how one can recognize but fail to act against impending climate catastrophe or from the compulsive repetition of toxic, worn-out patterns.
Yet through the act of close looking at the self, the possibility of change emerges. We listen in as the speaker of these poems begins to perceive her “America’s girl” persona, not as her authentic identity, but as an increasingly uncomfortable costume from which she is, ultimately, capable of ripping free. The collection is framed by a 13-part poem called “Masque,” which interrogates the meaning of the “mask” worn—or not worn, in the case of right-wing ideologues—during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Published by Stephen F. Austin University Press