Giramondo $22 pb, 96 pp
Kate Middleton’s accomplished first book, Fire Season, begins with ‘Autobiography’, where the child kicks against the perceived constraints and ambiguities of her sex: she could ‘make a half-decent boy’ only if the books she read were ‘full enough of war / or gunrunners, or treasure, or spies, or spoils / of piracy. No, I didn’t know how to hold a hammer.’ Middleton constructs a version of self defined by negatives: the narrator was not a ‘boy’, but does not explain why she sees ‘boy’ as the norm or as a preferred sex. Much of Fire Season explores some historical and mythical women, often in light of this shadowy definition (‘You once said // the visible and the invisible imply each other’, ‘Essay on Absence – Journal (with Judy Garland)’). In particular, Middleton invokes several movie stars – Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck, Doris Day, Clara Bow, Lauren Bacall, as well as Judy Garland – measuring her distance from these fabled figures, as well as investigating them as alternative lives.