Daphne Gottlieb’s Final Girl is a potent collection of poems focused around the theme of the ultimate pop culture survivor. The Final Girl is the last girl left standing at the end of slasher films, the one who is forced to turn around and fight the bad guy rather than lie down and die for him. Hers is one of many distinct female voices in Gottlieb’s work, and together they speak for women throughout history, from Cleopatra to Princess Diana, who has played the role of victim as well as survivor, sometimes simultaneously.
Strikingly personal voices in poems such as My Mother Gets Dressed, I Knew it Was Over and The Babysitter evoke grief, humor, desire and a strong-willed sense of self, creating distinct characters that echo the women in our lives and the projected images of women in our culture. In Final Girl III: The Frame, Gottlieb instructs the potential victim, “You are here because you are in danger / and you are in danger because you are here. / You’ve got a bad case / of the captivity narrative.” Indeed Gottlieb’s own narrative is captivating, and illuminates both what is truly frightening and what strength and honesty is necessary to truly survive. Like the films it plays off of and pays homage to, Final Girl hooks you by evoking the most pleasurable kind of anxiety—the sense of not knowing what is coming next, but being certain that it will be shocking and yet familiar at the very same time.
Summer Lopez, small.spiral.notebook