The Favorite is, in Cig Harvey’s words, “an arrow to the heart.” Its sixty-three poems are gently shaped into three parts as Watson leads readers into her childhood’s world of social privilege, recognizes the psychological costs inhabitants pay, and demonstrates a wide and wonderful range of reactions.
Most of the fifteen poems in Part I are based on childhood memories. Four sisters ride uncomfortably in the back seat of the big car, ordered not to wrinkle their Sunday dresses, while their brother “rides shotgun and wears what he wants.” A girl manages to paddle around in an old canoe, but her sense of freedom comes from keeping herself hidden. Gender norms strongly favor the family’s only boy, and its powerful, charismatic father, whose presence inspires awe and fear, compliance and rebellion. Straight women, passive women, pretty and well-dressed women—enjoy, question, and are damaged by their privilege. In “Another Hurricane Coming,” for example, we understand what’s lost when a mother no longer wants her children to “feel the wind.” The fifteen poems in Part II stretch the threads first spun in childhood into adolescence, by turns angry, loving, subtle and compassionate. “When I Think of My Mother, I See a Closed Door,” ends the section appropriately.
Part III is longer—its voice generally older, more accepting, more free in its metaphors, and marked by a wonderfully wry sense of humor. As Richard Blanco says, “Watson tenderly, yet unabashedly, speaks to the allure and trappings of womanhood as she traces its arc from the innocent expectations of a girl, to the fear of a teenager forced to conform, to a fully actuated woman…self-aware and fully alive with all her past and her future, her pain and healing, her losses and her newfound hopes.”
Excerpts & Press Materials
Through poems that are as precise [as] they are free-wheeling, as reserved as they are unapologetic, as private as they are confessional and public, The Favorite recasts the archetypal hero’s journey as a heroine’s journey. Watson tenderly, yet unabashedly, speaks to the allure and trappings of womanhood as she traces its arc from the innocent expectations of a girl, to the fear of a teenager forced to conform, to a fully actuated woman who is self-aware and fully alive with all her past and her future, her pain and healing, her losses and her newfound hopes.
Richard Blanco, presidential inaugural poet and author of How to Love a Country
Lucinda Watson’s poems are upsetting in the way that powerful poetry always is: The images are sensuous and provocative, but also suggestive of pain and regret. A charmed, privileged life—deconstructed.
David Ignatius, columnist for The Washington Post
Poetry as memoir and memoir as poetry—Lucinda Watson brings both together to take us with her on a truly captivating life journey.
Peter Andreas, Brown University
A sweeping exploration of what it is to be a daughter, a lover, and a woman. Watson’s potent, and often-witty insights, are spun through with unexpected imagery. One important thread is her private rebellion and deepening self-awareness as she explores her relationship with her powerful father. These are skillfully wrought, deeply insightful poems of humanity, sexuality and loss.
Brett Hall Jones, Community of Writers at Squaw Valley
An arrow to the heart.
Cig Harvey, internationally acclaimed photographer
A remarkable debut collection. These finely crafted poems begin with a passionate and, at times, uncomfortable exploration of family relationships. There is privilege, travel—and the frequent trips she takes as a child continue literally and metaphorically into adulthood, motherhood and difficult relationships. Every poem seems effortless with graceful lines, affectionate tones, and lucid eloquence. The illumination at the center of even the darkest poems transcends loss in all its forms and celebrates the wonder and reward of simply being human.
Kevin Pilkington, Sarah Lawrence College
Finding The Favorite is like opening a secret journal lush with language that evokes our own lost memories.
Joyce Tenneson, Lifetime Achievement winner, Professional Photographers of America