Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is a curious exploration of figurative and literal transformations from adolescence into adulthood, and it examines the malleability of our identities. Many poetry readers have witnessed the retelling of fairy tales, like that of Cinderella, but not many poems — if any — deal with Nancy Drew and her identity, particularly in “The Case of the Double Jinx” (pg. 6) and the doppelgänger. Nancy is hot on the case and observing this imposter has her doubting herself and her value. Even though she knows that this imposter is not like her, she still fears she could lose Ned and her edge.
Reddy explores standing on the outside and the envy that can engender in “Understudy” (pg 10). “You’re the other//woman, stranded just offstage,/mouthing the words you’ve learned/by heart. At dress rehearsal you were costumed/as your better self. Now she’s the critics’ darling and you’re//a cast-off prop,” the narrator says. This persona takes on more and more of the starlight’s mannerisms, make-up rituals, and more until she mirrors that star in the hope that by becoming other than herself, she will be seen.
As the collection progresses, the poems seem to take on a less literary and artsy subject matter to look at the average person’s identity and how that changes over time. “Big Valley’s Last Surviving Beauty Queen” (pg. 18) explores the effects of aging on a former beauty queen and how that effects her own perception of herself. The accolades she sees and experiences are false to her when she returns home.
Genealogy (pg. 39) My father's father was a woodstove. He snapped and roared. He crackled in the basement. They fed him so they wouldn't freeze.
While these perceptions of identity are explored again and again in a number of contexts, Reddy also explores the perceptions of men. But these perceptions of men also can affect how women identify themselves. There are a number of these poems, which explore violence and addiction. Double Jinx by Nancy Reddy is fascinating and multi-layered in its examination of identity and perception, particularly among young women and adult women.
About the Poet:
Nancy Reddy’s poetry has been published in 32 Poems, Tupelo Quarterly, and Best New Poets of 2011(selected by D.A. Powell), with poems forthcoming in Post Road and New Poetry from the Midwest. She lives in Madison, where she is a doctoral candidate in composition and rhetoric at the University of Wisconsin.