When I first opened the book of poetry titled The Dollhouse Mirror, the last thing I thought was that I was going to read it an additional six times immediately after finishing it. I had no doubt in my mind that I would like the work; I usually do enjoy poetry and from what I had researched about author Frank Watson, I was confident I would have no trouble reading his book. I just didn’t expect to want to read it seven times in a row. Admittedly, The Dollhouse Mirror is a fairly quick read, with poems of three or four lines on each page, but every time I read it over, I read it differently. My eyes were drawn to different lines or words each time, and each stanza moved me in various ways with every trip through the book.
And what a trip this book is. The poems are short, but magical — filled with love, passion, yearning, and sometimes sadness and regret. I found that the reader can either read each few pages of stanzas as a separate poem, something the author most likely intended since he would cite a source at the end of some of them, or can read the entire book as one long poem. I ended up choosing to do the latter, making the book a little more abstract at times, but equally enthralling, and all the more beautiful.
The voice of the book oscillates between that of a man so deeply enamored by and in awe of a woman that all he can do is idolize her, and that of a man struggling with himself so intensely that he doesn’t even know if he is suited to be alive on Earth anymore. Watson goes back and forth between both, illustrating how easy it is for someone to love someone else passionately, regardless of the existence of severe inner turmoil.
Frank Watson prepares the reader for this battle with his first stanza on the first page of the book. He states,
to the poet
there is a love of beauty
in all its
This sets the stage for the content on the following pages. The love that is described in this book, the pain that is described, the happiness, the sadness, it is all part of the beauty of life and being alive. And the poet loves it all, no matter what.
On the following page, the stanza reads
she was a doe
with tender flesh
but the only ones
were hungry wolves
Immediately, it’s obvious that the speaker is enchanted by this woman, using the words “tender doe” to describe her. It also becomes apparent that this enchantment is seemingly unrequited, seeing as she only loves “hungry wolves.” This stanza also seems to imply that the speaker sees the woman as fragile and in need of some sort of protection. Watson subtly sets up something of a little romantic tragedy already, with only five lines and sixteen words.
The following few stanzas (or independent poems) are that of love and the solace the speaker finds in this woman’s kiss and embrace, even though there is intimation that he is still trapped somehow within his mind and wishes to be freed. The woman’s own personal troubles are touched upon a little more, as well, though with an air of optimism. Watson writes,
the darkest night
there are stars
that she can look up to
That particular poem resonated with me, giving me feelings of both hope and sadness at the same time, a true example of the aforementioned “beauty in all its terrifying forms.” The next pages describe the effect the woman has on the speaker — though he is madly in love with her, he also can see that she fights against herself in similar ways that he does. She calms him, opens up his heart to the magic of the world, all while reflecting back at him his humanity.
As the book comes to an end, the poems become a little bit more about the speaker’s inner struggle and mental torment, and how it could have potentially pushed the people he loved in his life away, particularly the woman. One poem references a mask he wears that will never wash off; a few pages later another poem mentions the speaker “seeing the family that could have been.” Another one states that, “he looks around, but the enemy is within.” These stanzas all come one right after another, illustrating the overwhelming barrage of emotions and feelings that the speaker surely feels.
The book closes with this stanza:
there is time
enough for weeping
as the dust settles
and all the books
Ostensibly, this particular poem is very sad, implying that something has ended, and it will be time to weep soon. I chose to take it a little differently. I saw it as a perfect way to close this book. Not everything goes as planned; life isn’t always conventionally beautiful, and as shown through the speaker in this book of poems, everyone will struggle throughout the majority of their journey through life. But the only time to cry is when “all the books remain closed.” Will all the books ever remain closed, completely, though? I don’t think so. There will always be another book to open, another page to turn, and another poem to read. And that is terrifyingly beautiful.
Twisted Talk: Have you read anything by Frank Watson before? What is some of your favorite poetry? Discuss below!