Review: I Would Leave Me If I Could. by Halsey

by Wynter K Miller

My reviews are rarely more than subjective pieces of documentation, intended to say, if nothing else: I consumed X and it made me feel Y because Z. With prose, I have a toolbox, assembled from years of encounters and semesters of coursework, that allows me to say X, Y, and Z with something like confidence. At least, I have confidence in my taste. I know what I like and what I don’t and I am comfortable articulating why. With poetry, I have no toolbox. My encounters barely number beyond zero, my semesters of coursework are literally at zero. I am confident only in my ability to articulate: I know nothing about poetry — I have no idea what I like.

I finished I Would Leave Me If I Could. because I felt like there was a narrative arc — I could almost follow the trajectory of Halsey’s life, and that held my interest. I didn’t love this collection because the arc was splintered by poems that felt lazy, the byproducts of manic sessions with a journal rather than thoughtful review and editing.

Halsey’s is only the second collection of poetry I’ve ever read in full. I hated the first collection I finished, notwithstanding the fact that the poet in question is exceedingly popular and continually recommended on the basis of accessibility. All of that said, I believe there’s nothing like exposure to generate affection. Halsey’s debut wasn’t a 5-star collection for me, but I’m nowhere near done trying to find one.

Rating: 2 stars

Favorite Poems

Wish You the Best (because I could feel her rage and, frankly, passive aggression is nothing if not accessible: I smile and sigh when I crawl into bed / ’Cause there’s no more scar tissue / inside my head. / I heard what you’re up to / I’m glad that I left. / I feel like myself again deep in my chest.)

Is There Somewhere Else? (because I liked the dialogue peppered throughout the internal monologue; it felt real — especially because my internal response to dialogue is so often: You’re still / so fucking talkative.)

Guts (because I liked the poet’s vulnerability, and her honesty more: I got this bad habit / where I don’t think before I speak / I fall in love like every week.)

Everything (because it captures a very specific kind of childhood (mine))

Devil In Me (because it says a lot in only a few lines: I won’t take anyone down / If I crawl tonight / But I still let everyone down / When I change in size / And I went tumbling down / Trying to reach your height / But I scream too loud / If I speak my mind.)

Seventeen (because it told a story; it felt like prose)

Least Favorite Poems

Onanism (because how can a list be a poem? I need more creativity and less shock value)

The Baker (because riffing on an idiom (having your cake and eating it, too) feels insanely lazy)

Smoke (because riffing on a cliché (smoke — “vanished like smoke,” “like a cloud of smoke”) feels insanely lazy)

Wynter K Miller is an editor and writer in California.

Wynter K Miller is an editor and writer in California. @wynterkm