An Engagement with Lizzie Harris's Stop Wanting

by Lindsay Reamer

Lizzie Harris, Stop Wanting (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2014)

Psychologists say that each time we recall a memory, we are only recalling the last time we remembered it. So it becomes apparent that the truth of an event is lost the second our subjective brains become involved. “I want to say what happened / but am suspicious of stories,” Lizzie Harris writes in the opening lines of her debut collection, Stop Wanting. Harris’ speaker embarks on a personal journey to wade through the mental fog of her childhood abuse, in the hopes that with this truth seeking endeavour will eventually come inner peace. In poems like “Mythology” and “White Loss of Forgetting,” a scattered form explores the characteristics of a dispersed recall of memory. As the poems progress, the memory becomes more solidified and fully realized: “I remember the touching was softer than I wanted.” Harris’ speaker declares, “I don’t want to be vague” and offers images that are both graphic, yet hauntingly beautiful: “pity / is a kindness, a kind of lilac / orbiting a bruise.” It is Harris’ ability to ask “What should grow from this?” that creates art from the ugliest of events. The title poem, “Stop Wanting,” acts as a catalyst in which Harris’ speaker begins to explore the ways in which her past has affected her present self: “I’m afraid / there’s a man somewhere who could love me / and I won’t have the stomach for it.” Similarly, in “Want Stopping” Harris’ speaker feels “whole as a watermelon,” but with a relationship that is tainted by memories of her abuse: “in the bedroom my stomach pulsed / like lungs.” It seems that Harris is at constant war with her memories. However, the concluding poem, “There’s Grass Somewhere, But I Don’t Know How to Find It,” offers a partially hopeful realization that she has the capacity to one day live in harmony with the past and “Stop Wanting.” In the final lines of the book, Harris asserts, “I could live one day, if or when / I’m ready to.” The way that “I’m ready to” stands out as its own line subtly asserts that Harris is indeed ready and able to find inner peace with her memories. Throughout Stop Wanting Harris invites us to ask what should grow from our own trauma when the past seems to consume our present.

Lindsay Reamer is a first-year student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Boston University. Besides the angsty blog she created in 7th grade, her work has never been published. When she isn’t contemplating life’s important questions, she can probably be found cuddling with her dog Billy or singing in the shower.