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A Working Girl Can't Win: and Other Poems

3.62  ·  Rating Details  ·  242 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Deborah Garrison, whose work as an editor and writer has enlivened the pages of The New Yorker for more than a decade, evokes the characters and events of her everyday life with intense feeling and, more important, conjures up the universal dilemmas and pleasures of a young woman trying to come to terms with love and work.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
ebook, 80 pages
Published February 19th 2009 by Modern Library (first published 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 425)
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Will
Jan 03, 2013 Will rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Is this the birth of a pundit
or a slut? Is she the woman they courted for her youthful edge
or a kiss-and-tell bimbo,
a careerist coquette?
The loyal daughter to spin doctors
losing their hair or soul sister
to feminist essayists everywhere?
Is her meteoric rise the source
of her potential demise?
Is her worldview equal parts
yuppie whine and new-age rumor?
Can we get a biopsy on her latest
breast tumor? Is she a failed
anorexic, or diet-pill faddist
who'll let it all go and get fat
in her fifties? Are her r
...more
Sarah
I've read this volume over and over and over again, I just read it again today when I found it by chance at the bottom of a basket of old mail. This was the poetry that opened the door poetry for me. I struggled all through college with poetry. Then I found "A Working Girl Can't Win" on my lunch break at a formerly lovely little bookstore [for Wilmington Delaware residents - The 9th Street Bookstore used to carry a very respectable collection of poetry - my adult immersion in poetry after I read ...more
Megan
Jan 04, 2008 Megan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Megan by: honestly a magazine ad, the cover
Shelves: poetry
These poems aren't completely terrible but they aren't particularly good, either. They read kind of like Sex in the City, minus the sex, the humor, or anything else interesting, distilled into the poetry of, say, Billy Collins.
SmarterLilac
Feb 16, 2009 SmarterLilac rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cute, funny, with flashes of profundity. Even if I did wind up hating the speaker for her arrogance. I still have this on my personal poetry shelf after ten years.
Ali
Apr 06, 2012 Ali rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
this book is juvenile, self-indulgent, uninventive, unexploratory, surface-level. get over it.
Casey Kiser
This book is really well-written. So well that it kind of annoys me. I actually did enjoy most of the poems but I rated it lower because when I put the book down, nothing stayed with me. Nothing stood out. The author just never quite goes deep enough. Never truly says 'fuck it, I'm gonna say it'. She attempts to do this on the poem 'Fight Song' but it doesn't phase me. I just like poetry with more impact of originality. I need to have emotions dropped on my head. That being said, I do think this ...more
Kathy
May 10, 2009 Kathy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Tell me you haven't had a day like this.....go ahead


Excerpt:

FIGHT SONG

Sometimes you have to say it:
Fuck them all.

Yes fuck them all--
the artsy posers,
the office blowhards
and brown nosers;

Fuck the type who gets the job done
and the type who stands on principle;
the down-to-earth and understated;
the overhyped and underrated;

Project director?
Get a bullshit detector.

Client's mum?
Up your bum.

You can't be nice to everyone.

When your back is to the wall
When they don't return your call
When your sick of savi
...more
Julia Marie
I've had her poems stuck in my head for years, after hearing a reading on the radio when I was younger. I don't know what the chord it is that it struck with me but I'm happy to own it and have read the whole thing. The ones I didn't know didn't mean as much to me as the ones I knew already but its one for the shelf that I suspect will come down and down again for years to come .
Jess
May 30, 2011 Jess rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those interested
Recommended to Jess by: Fooling with Words
Shelves: poetry, z_11

Came across Garrison's poetry in Fooling with Words: A Celebration of Poets and Their Craft and wanted to read more.

This was a decent collection. I particular like her use of rhyme, especially the internal and imperfect rhyme. When you read it aloud, some of her stuff just sounds great.

A few poems felt unfinished and I'd hunt for another stanza or couplet. Some poems are better than others (as always) but mostly I just enjoyed it. I'd recommend checking it out from the library.

Also - you're not
...more
Cara Ellison
Mar 05, 2014 Cara Ellison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I read this for the first time in the 1990s. I tried it again recently and loved it just as much as the first time. Sexy, urbane, feminine - these poems are lovely and enduring. Somehow they read a little sadder now, but that only adds to the richness.
julie ann tuliao
Jan 17, 2015 julie ann tuliao rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice compilation of poems :)
word are not very literal,not too deep.
Really can connect with the thoughts the poems makes me think.
Make me reflect on my experiences. :)
Jan magdalene
Mar 03, 2015 Jan magdalene rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
ohh.. maybe i am missing something but UHGG!
blatant misogynistic heterosexuality as told from the mouth of an eager female participant. vomit.
Jen
Jul 18, 2009 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this collection of poems before falling asleep. They’re contemporary, and narrative driven, about marriage and, as the title dictates, being a career girl. They bend towards the angry feminists, and in the most gusto of them all, Fight Song, the energy takes the tired, hum-drum to the next level:
“Fuck the culture scanners, contest winners/ subtle thinkers and the hacks who offend them; / people who give catered dinners / and (saddest of sinners) the sheep who attend them—”
There was someth
...more
Karan
Aug 16, 2011 Karan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Read first time in 2000, second time in August 2011. It ages very well ...

From "Please Fire Me"

Her come another alpha male -
A man's man, a dealmaker,
holds tanks of liquor,
charms them pantsless at lunch:

I've never been sicker.
Do I have to stare into his eyes
and sympathize? If I want my job
I do. Well I think I'm through

with the working world,
through with warming eggs
and being Zenlike in my detachment
from all things Ego.

I'd like to go
somewhere else entirely,
and I don't mean
Europe.


Twenty-eight sh
...more
Rachel McCready-Flora
I wanted to like Deborah Garrison's poems more than I actually did. Yes, bosses can be arrogant and sexist, some men are terrible, and who hasn't had a day on the job that made them want to jump out of a window? Yet these poems seemed to lack any real depth beyond these themes, which is unfortunate. Her approach to men seemed very Intro to Women's Studies, if that makes sense.

Did I have fun reading them? Yes, especially my angry-feminist inner-self, which smirked most of the way through. But ove
...more
Amanda
Dec 22, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I bought this book in the college bookstore my first year of college. Almost 15 years later, I can't imagine what drew my younger self to this slim volume of poetry very much about adult women. I've reread it multiple times since then and find it new each time. The individual poems are simple and clever and probably seemed subversive to my 18 year-old self. This year my favorites were "There's No Going Back" and "The Kiss."
Lola
A Working Girl Can't Win is probably a poem collection that would sit on Carrie Bradshaw's bookshelf. It just had such a Sex and the City feel to it. There were maybe one or two poems I found witty or interesting, but the word I would use to describe most of them is vapid. Vapid and shallow. Not much deep digging was done here. I like my poetry to think and feel, and I just don't think Garrison did that here. Not recommended!
Duane
Aug 03, 2012 Duane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I purchased this book over a decade ago and loved it. The other day I pulled it from the shelf to reread. It was as good, if not better, then I remembered. The way she writes gives her words an easiness that glides into the readers mind, but with subtle shifts the poems look into the end of happiness which gives them a weight I appreciate.
Abbi Dion
The cover and the title are a Perfect Ten. The poems are immensely readable and fun. They worked best as prose, in my opinion. I'd like to read a novel by this author. I can relate to how this must sound to the author (i.e. a backhanded compliment). I'm off to check if she's got something already written and published. Cheers.
Shannon
I couldn't resist a Michigan native and the title certainly called to me. I enjoyed the directness and clarity of Garrison's poems but they seemed like attempts to be honest and edgy rather than just honest and edgy. Quite a few lines are pure gold. A quick read and worth the time.
Jennifer
Apr 11, 2015 Jennifer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I recommend this book to anyone. Absolutely anyone.

Garrison has a unique and powerful voice on a common subject, woman's struggle with being seen in the workplace as an equal as opposed to an object while balancing sensuality and femininity outside of her job.
Phillip
Apr 02, 2016 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
I really like the voice in these poems, and I like that there are a few poems that are pleasantly different. I mean, most of these are about relationships, love, being used, and so on, but then BAM there's a contemplative poem about looking at birds.
Amber
Sep 17, 2007 Amber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have a hell of a time reading long, serious poems- these are smart, modern and funny. I bought it compulsively, randomly flipping through the poetry section of B&N and only after bring it home realized I'd read her stuff before in the Writer's Almanac.
Ingrid
Sep 17, 2012 Ingrid rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read "Maybe There's No Going Back" when it appeared in The New Yorker in 1993. I saw myself in the poem, and walked away from a bad situation. I framed the poem and kept it with me for years.
Kate Cronin
Dec 23, 2015 Kate Cronin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazing collection of poems centered around a young women's work and life in the city. A few poems in particular will resonate when you are having "one of those days".
Lisa Mooney
Liked the poems but at the same time just felt like I didn't get them. Sometimes I was confused as to what the poet was referring to/writing about.
Liz
I picked this slim book of poems up from the Wayne State English Department's "free books" bin last year.
Amanda
Feb 01, 2008 Amanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: need-to-get-it
A book of poetry I keep meaning to pick up - Deborah has written for us.
Alyssa
I read this book years ago and loved it. It's still on my bookshelf.
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Share This Book



“Lately I can't help wanting us
to be like other people.
For example, if I were a smoker,

you'd lift a match to the cigarette
just as I put it between my lips.
It's never been like that

between us: none of that
easy chemistry, no quick, half automatic
flares. Everything between us

had to be learned.
Saturday finds me brooding
behind my book, all my fantasies

of seduction run up
against the rocks.
Tell me again

why you don't like
sex in the afternoon?
No, don't tell me--

I'll never understand you
never understand us, America's strangest
loving couple: they never

drink a bottle of wine together
and rarely look at each other.
Into each other's eyes, I mean.”
204 likes
“For you she learned to wear a short black slip
and red lipstick,
how to order a glass of red wine
and finish it. She learned to reach out
as if to touch your arm and then not
touch it, changing the subject.
Didn't you think, she'd begin, or
Weren't you sorry. . . .

To call your best friends
by their schoolboy names
and give them kisses good-bye,
to look away when they say
Your wife! So your confidence grows.
She doesn't ask what you want
because she knows.

Isn't that what you think?

When actually she was only waiting
to be told Take off your dress---
to be stunned, and then do this,
never rehearsed, but perfectly obvious:
in one motion up, over, and gone,
the X of her arms crossing and uncrossing,
her face flashing away from you in the fabric
so that you couldn't say if she was
appearing or disappearing.”
62 likes
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