Shop Girl is a remarkable debut collection because it differs very much from what poetry readers in the Low Countries usually understand as poetry. These texts do not deal with common day experiences or personal life, but offer a critical analysis of late capitalist economics. In this respect the cover of the collection is symbolic: the title is followed by a trade mark sign and the ISBN-number is printed on the cover as a subtitle, as if stating that even a critical poetry collection remains part of the market.
Dominique De Groen worked for a time at Primark, the cheapest clothing discount store in the world. The poems zoom in on a self who, inside the economic process of a devastating global capitalism, has been reduced to a will-less link in the chain from production to consumption.
No, you can take me out of the checkout zone
but you can't take the checkout zone out of me.
The shop floor sticks to my insides,
absorbs everything it touches.
Pumped so full I don't need the internet anymore
I'm already worldwide.
[Tr. Jonathan William Beaton]
In eight long poems, De Groen ties together several fragments in exhaustive fashion . Her repetitions not only place the daily round into perspective, they also demonstrate the self-conscious speaker's lack of control. Mingling routine and consciousness, De Groen fabricates a bizarre, but very recognizable reality. And her analysis goes beyond the clothing industry. She follows the devastating results of economical thinking down to to a grain of sand in the Far East. In this way, thie collection also offers an ecological point of view, warning that human kind had better think about how it deals with the raw materials of nature and earth.
The almost clinical, marketing-inspired language in these texts seems to counteract the ambition of the poet to convince people of her point of view, but at the same time such use of language enhances the impact and the intensity of what is written. The fact that the reader after a while experiences a feeling of distance, repetitiveness and redundancy is incorporated into De Groen's poetical praxis. The reader is estranged not only from routine life, but also the routine practice of poetry reading.
Dominique De Groen is Executive Shop Girl at Poetry™. Her work has been published in a variety of literary magazines. Shop Girl was in the running for the Poetry Debut Prize.