Shaughnessy conjures our potential future, envisioning an age where cephalopods might rule over humankind, a fate she suggests we may just deserve after destroying their oceans. These poems are the battle cry of a woman who is fighting for the survival of the world she loves, and an exhibition of who we are as a civilization.
At times this book almost wallows in guilt, in the performance of self-flagellation. 'Tell myself the weather ruined my plans, though it’s me ruined the weather’s,' Shaughnessy writes in one poem, and, in another, 'I’m ashamed of us all' ... It feels like a challenge to the reader: Chew on this, chumps. We made this hell and now we have to sleep in it; it’s 'well-deserved.' Are these poems preachy? Do we deserve a poetry that isn’t preachy? And what’s the alternative? ... If they are often bleak, Shaughnessy’s poems are also very funny ... Shaughnessy can also write the kind of line that is confusing in its beauty, whose beauty exceeds its sense, which is the thing I go to poetry for — lines that can be read and reread without exhausting their potential meaning.
Shaughnessy writes startling original poems that are both intellectually wide-ranging and emotionally riveting. She writes as a woman and a mother concerned about sexism, racism, gun violence, and environmental destruction. While writing about these difficult topics, she engages in puns and word play. Her poems are full of contradictions that lead to deeper thought ... Some may consider Shaughnessy’s latest collection the work of a Cassandra who has nothing positive to say. Others will see the book as the work of a brilliant visionary. But few can disagree that Shaughnessy’s work is a highly original look at the world as it is today and the dangers we seem intent on inflicting upon ourselves. The poems in this book shout, 'Pay attention!' The poet’s job is to pay attention; others should, too.
Shaughnessy’s conceptual work is clever as always, but even more extraordinary is her talent for crafting musical, expressive lines that triumph in their complexity and grace ... With an unparalleled ear for language, Shaughnessy excels at making the tragic transcendent.