Book Reviews | Literary Arts

“I am tired of being a woman”: Trish Hopkinson’s Footnote

Reviewed by Lis Pankl

Trish Hopkinson’s most recent volume of poetry, Footnote, is a deeply personal tribute to her favorite poems, prose, music, and films. She takes references from these works throughout to extrapolate into her own subject, often responding to the creator of the text or to the work itself.

Within this format, Hopkinson is able to draw out themes, both from her life/work and the life/work of others. One theme that appears in many of her poems is commentary on the traditional roles for women: daughter, wife, mother. For example, in “Waiting Around” Hopkinson delves into the dilemma of motherhood—of expectations to live for everyone else but oneself. The first line, “It so happens, I am tired of being a woman,” gives the reader an immediate vector to follow throughout the poem—the overwhelming emotion of being caged within the confines of wifedom and motherhood. The speaker desires to “salvage the space in time/for thought and collect it/like a souvenir.” This line speaks loudly to Virginia Woolf’s landmark essay “A Room of One’s Own” in which Woolf points to the luxuries of space and time as necessities in order for women to be creative beings.

The theme also recalls Doris Lessing’s short story “To Room Nineteen” where the wife/mother character (Susan) insists on having her own space—away from the house, the children, and her husband. In the story, Susan expresses the same sort of suffocation that the speaker in Hopkinson’s poem does when the poet states, “I can’t be this vineyard/to be bottled, corked/cellared, and shelved.” Both works address the loss of identity that can occur when faced with caring for others as one’s main activity and purpose for living.

The last lines of the poem,

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.

I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick

and I gamble on what’s expected.

And what to become. And how

to behave: mother, wife, brave

suggest that this speaker’s solution to her dilemma is passive rather than active or destructive while in “To Room Nineteen” there is a destructive solution, suicide.

A final resonance of this chapbook is in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, yet another work of fiction that explores the binding confines of traditional female roles. In “Waiting Around” Hopkinson adds to the body of work that offers a critical perspective on the lives of women and does so with poignant imagery that captures the details of domesticity:

The streaks

of summer have gone,

drained between gaps and gutters,

and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes

cringes me into corners.

It is this exploration of suffocating domesticity that links Hopkinson with many of the great female fiction writers of the 20th century. And while Footnote illuminates other themes, it is the relentless questioning of a woman’s place that I found most arresting.

 

WAITING AROUND
by Trish Hopkinson

It so happens, I am tired of being a woman.

And it happens while I wait for my children to grow

into the burning licks of adulthood. The streaks

of summer sun have gone,

drained between gaps into gutters,

and the ink-smell of report cards and recipe boxes

cringes me into corners. Still I would be satisfied

if I could draw from language

the banquet of poets.

If I could salvage the space in time

for thought and collect it

like a souvenir. I can no longer

be timid and quiet, breathless

and withdrawn.

I can’t salve the silence.

I can’t be this vineyard

to be bottled, corked,

cellared, and shelved.

That’s why the year-end gapes with pointed teeth,

growls at my crow’s feet, and gravels into my throat.

It claws its way thought the edges of an age

I never planned to reach

And diffuses my life into dullness—

workout rooms and nail salons,

bleach-white sheets on clotheslines,

and treacherous photographs of younger me

at barbecues and birthday parties.

I wait. I hold still in my form-fitting camouflage.

I put on my strong suit and war paint lipstick

and I gamble on what’s expected.

And what to become. And how

to behave: mother, wife, brave.

#

Footnote
by Trish Hopkinson
Lithic Press, 2017
$12.00

A Pushcart-nominated poet, Trish Hopkinson has been published in several anthologies and journals, including Stirring, Pretty Owl Poetry, and Chagrin River Review. Footnote is her third chapbook. She is a product director by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and their two outstanding children. You can follow Hopkinson on her blog where she shares information on how to write, publish, and participate in the greater poetry community here.

 

David Pace is a writer and literary editor of 15 Bytes. Author of the novel “Dream House on Golan Drive,” (Signature Books), his creative work has also appeared in Quarterly West, ellipsis…literature and art, Alligator Juniper, Sunstone, Dialogue and reprinted/posted in Phone Fiction. His byline has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, American Theatre, Huffington Post and elsewhere. www.davidgpace.com

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