In Mirrors

by Lyn Lifshin

Upcoming book from pressapress

84 pages Perfectbound paperback (ISBN: 0-9772524-3-4, $15.00)

A new book from one of our most important poets. Lifshin gives us her most reflective work to date.

"No one is more precise, focused, as deftly impressionistic as Lifshin..."

-Hugh Fox

"Lyn Lifshin's mirror poems may be taken individually & as a suite. Few poets can extend a metaphor in so many directions. Lifshin's poetic power is evident in these imagistic variations on the theme of insight."

-Eric Greinke

“There are many crisp images in this collection. If you are a fan of Ms. Lifshin's work, you will enjoy her latest authoring.”

-Rattlesnake Review

"Whenever I read a new book by Lyn Lifshin, I go a little nuts. And she has published well over a hundred books. One of the books that came out this year, 'In Mirrors,' is a trip not only in space and time, but into another dimension of reality. She crosses the boundary between the real and the virtual. She peers into the past, the present and the future all at once. The poems in this book are an experience in what I like to call a fine example of Magical Realism. Looking into the magic mirror, what you see is what you get!"

-John Birkbeck

"Lyn Lishin is the most published poet in the US. Bar none. Her bio says she “has written more than 100 books.” Wow. This book focuses on mirrors and what we now call the beauty myth: one poem’s title notes “The Symbol for Women is the Representation of A Hand Mirror” Throughout the collection, Lifshin’s poems mosaic into an impressionistic cracked mirror, a feminist exploration of being a woman throughout the last hundred years, in various cultures, mythologies, and literatures. Read it."

-Vince Gotera, North American Review March April 2008

Lyn Lifshin is like the Joyce Carol Oates of poetry, putting out book after book of her free form, driven work with no end in sight. Many of these books are tours-de-force and IN MIRRORS is no exception. The central theme seems to be narcissism, particularly that of women. It is not Lifshin’s fault that I kept thinking of Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mirror” which as a work of genius seems to sum it up, to say it all. These are more diluted works with the tension building through sheer volume, and are valuable in their own right.

One can see why this writer is so widely published. Her metaphors are clear, her language plain. In “In the Mechanical Distorting Mirror,” the reflection is a stand-in for the self, the women’s bodies reflecting their self-hatred. The women “Groan” when their hips widen:

“I hate it, a
woman in small heels
says, when her
width competes with
her height…

The “men stop, move on.” Not so the women, “Riveted, hypnotized by the thinner, tall/ skinny image…the one with no lumps of/flesh blooming”:

”got to diet,
need new hair.”
“yuck” a teen age
beauty sneers,
scowling and
hating her perfect

This hatred, Lifshin thinks, is culturally induced since the poem ends with an image of gladness and freedom, “of Amazon women/plunging thru branches/ glad for the space/ they need.”

There are a couple of Barbie poems and though we think the theme has been done, Lifshin manages to bring new meaning to it. The “Like a Glitter Barbie Under Glass” poem declares, “She’s hollow inside,” and thought “like Barbie, she won’t age.”

her only variety
is not from anything
inside, but from
the light
bounced off her
curves that, like
the moon, are cold
places nothing grows,
with no light
of her own.

Of course, a problem with mirrors is that they reflect the outside. Consider a Rembrandt self portrait, particularly one of the later ones. How does the outside mirror the inside? This is a book about reflections, but I am afraid Ms Lifshin’s investigations leave us with few deep insights, but are, for all their professional smoothness and ease, only skin deep. Some of the poems connect with the mirror in different cultural contexts, like the mirror as it appears in Jewish custom. “In Various Cultures, Mirrors are Covered with Cloth In a House Where Someone Has Died. Here the mirrors are “waxed over, soaped”—not only to dispel vanity, but to keep people from facing themselves. Many of the best poems however keep describing anorexia, women’s self hatred, what I would call the new narcissism. Consider: “In the Mirror, The Woman Standing On A Towel Sees Her Bulges As Curves, Her Grey Hair A Rose Amber.” In it a woman has “chosen certain/ mirrors at ballet/

in any new studio
found the ones I look
thin in, my thighs
in black leotards
like dark scissors

It goes on to describe Lifshin’s encounters, not so much with mirrors as with scales

I never use those scales
that glare at you, dare
you to put a coin in. I
don’t stand dressed or
in shoes on any scale

She tells us that all she remembers from each year is “what man I was/in love with and how/much I weighed…”

Maybe this preoccupation with weight and appearance is a hazard built into a book about mirrors in our culture: “the only message/worries about aging/ wrinkles, grey/ hair a fat look in the mirror.” It’s certainly an expressive book and, unfortunately for women, a timely one.

— Nikki Stiller

Last updated: July 30, 2009