Orange Crush

Simone Muench's third book of poems, Orange Crush, draws on amazingly lush and specific language to describe, in part, scenes of women's hardship. However, rather than reinforcing images of victimization, Muench's women emerge as brilliantly complex, and they bite at the boxes they are in. The central poem in the book, "Orange Girl Suite," focuses on women who earned money selling oranges—and often themselves—outside theaters. The sections of this poem weave in and out of history, creating rich images that move beyond stereotype and make history a vivid companion to the present. Muench follows the poem with a series of prose pieces that are based on, and also expand and explode, different stereotypes of women, such as "the femme fatale" described as "A wineglass filled with fight." Throughout the book, the power of Muench's language gives these women power. The reader is left not with the stark hardness of gender inequality but with the richness of seeing lives anew. As Yusef Komunyakaa says, the book is "always moving toward the revelatory."

This book review originally appeared in American Poets.