As labyrinthine as its namesake, Dorothea Lasky’s The Shining is an ekphrastic horror lyric that shapes an entirely unique feminist psychological landscape. Here, Lasky guides us through the familiar rooms of the Overlook Hotel, both realized and imagined, inhabiting characters and spaces that have been somewhat flattened in Stephen King’s novel or Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation. Ultimately, Lasky’s poems point us to the ways in which language is always haunted—by past selves, poetic ancestors, and paradoxical histories.
Lasky’s distinctly feminist lens crystallizes the horrors of the infamous Overlook Hotel anew. Plumbing the contested shadows of self-image and desire, neither she nor the reader can escape “that terrible terror of being / that’s me.”
The New York Times
Lasky has been heralded as a Gen-X successor to confessionalism, but in The Shining, she marries a more subdued exposition with her signature Plathian confrontation... Rather than self-aggrandize or self-immolate, as in traditional confession, poetry here becomes apprentice to a larger feminist project of dismantling patriarchal power.
Eileen G'Sell, Los Angeles Review of Books
As the collection’s title suggests, these poems exist in a space somewhere between ekphrasis and feminist fan fiction that inhabits the voices, wallpaper, and atmosphere of the Stephen King horror story adapted for film by Stanley Kubrick. The pieces are entrenched in the movie’s visual vernacular... In these dynamic poems, Lasky pierces into the eye of chaos and terror and finds a strange peace there, discovering new qualities of her own voice in the process.
Through her usual playful swagger of dark turns, Lasky utilizes the bones of the source material to carve out lyrics sharp enough to draw blood... Lasky writes from and within spaces King and Kubrick could never hope to fathom, offering a sequence of horrors that exist not purely in the extraordinary but across more familiar spaces. Through Lasky, background characters move from mere decoration to flesh, and to acknowledgment and even, finally, agency.
Rob McLennan's Blog
These speakers are caught up in an endlessly repeating loop of horrors that are actually quite beautiful if you look at them through Lasky’s eye, trained as it is on form and color. No matter how hideous the scene, you’re seeing it through a kaleidoscope.
Mya Spalter, Liber
The slow drain of connection, and the continued fight to rediscover it, make the poems echo across each other with a dull ache–the way the blank stare of Wendy watching the TV contrasts Jack’s vacant anger staring out the window. The poems capture the paralysis of memory and the way we shape it to fit the story we tell ourselves about ourselves and the people we hurt and who hurt us. The poems speak to our monstrosity, or our heroism, depending on the day.
Heather Bowlan, Cul De Sac of Blood
Certainly the attention these poems pay to murderous men with axes comes across as a critique. But what is most appealing in this book is what Lasky calls its “strange humor.” She often finds something to smirk at: “They saved every sex scene / For a weird green bathroom.” We are given to understand that living in the haunted hotel can be terrifying but also, simultaneously, quite pleasant. “It was still beautiful,” she writes in “The Ax.” “Every last moment / Of this completely / Inappropriate love.” One might actually want to spend eternity here.
Las Vegas Review of Books
Dorothea Lasky is the author of seven books of poetry and prose, including The Shining (forthcoming, Wave Books) and Animal (Wave Books, 2019). She is also the editor of Essays (Essay Press, 2023) and co-editor of Open the Door: How to Excite Young People About Poetry (McSweeney's, 2013). Currently, she lives in New York City and teaches poetry at Columbia University School of the Arts.
Publication: October 2023
ISBN# 9781950268856 (5.5 x 8, 88pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781950268917 (5.5 x 8, 88pp, limited edition hardcover)