Sweet, Young, and Worried by Blythe Baird is a poetry collection that is valuable to all readers. This collection centers around remembering the past pain of adolescence, learning from that pain, and coming to terms with the fact that it may never go away. Divided into three sections, Baird’s poetry collection will make you want to shed tears of sadness, joy, and remembrance.
The first section of Sweet, Young, and Worried, titled, “To Become an Emergency” dwells on the obstacles and obsessions that come with being an adolescent. Baird perfectly illustrates what it was like for her as a young girl struggling with an eating disorder, begging to be accepted-especially from her mother- and discovering her true self. In her poem, “Sad Girls Club,” the speaker recollects moments when her and her friends would hang out throughout their teenage years. These particular lines, through the use of alliteration and precise diction, hits the reader with gripping intensity:
we joked about
suicide so often
it became difficult to tell
the difference between
and a promise.
Many of Baird’s poems throughout her collection are composed of couplets, with several others having a mixture of couplets, tercets, and single-lined stanzas. The varying lengths of these stanzas offer a unique read by abandoning the idea of having a distinct structure, which leads to each poem having a chaotic yet harmonious tone.
The second part in Baird’s collection, “Splinters of Improvement” focuses on overcoming hardships and learning to forgive those who have hurt you, especially yourself. Several poems in this section concentrate on the guilt and pain that comes with having an abortion. For example, “What to Expect When You are Not” takes us through a whirlwind of emotions. Within this poem, the speaker is conflicted between her pro-choice beliefs, yet grieves the decision she ultimately had to make.
yet still somehow have
a mobile of regrets
circling the crib above
my own decisions.
Baird’s skillful use of metaphors allows her poetry to reverberate through the page so that everyone can catch a palpable glimpse into her life in that moment. Baird’s second section also includes poems that are themed around accepting what cannot be changed, particularly with her mother. In “A Sign She is Trying,” Baird demonstrates the way in which she must take the unique love her mother gave her and see it as something pure. The lines, “I have to take this as a sign// she is trying, / even if it isn’t// even if she isn’t,” highlights Baird’s changing perspective on her mother. Overall, this section is a reawakening of Baird’s past over and over again until she reaches new and greater depths within herself.
One poem that is sure to have a lasting effect is “Guilt Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.” This poem acts as a turning point in the collection because it shifts the vulnerability and weakness felt in the previous poems into an empowering tone that signifies the growth that Baird has undergone. While this poem is very moving in its entirety, the penultimate lines may be the most impactful.
one day, the urge
to write a poem
than the urge
Baird’s third and final section in her poetry collection poses numerous thoughts about the daunting unknown yet sends an uplifting tone for a future of true acceptance and happiness within herself. “To Devour a Sky,” the final poem and perhaps the epitome of this collection, transforms her pessimistic views into optimistic ones, particularly in the lines, “we were sweet/ & young/ & worrying/-ly brilliant.” With the title of the collection being morphed into a completely different meaning, Baird completes this poetic journey on a hopeful and inspirational note.
Sweet, Young, and Worried is powerfully written with heart-piercing metaphors, captivating lineage, and refined diction. Baird’s collection shows how past wounds may leave a scar, but that the pain will eventually weaken with time. Baird truly pours her heart onto each page, and it can be felt beating in every single word.