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My favorite poem by Elizabeth Austen (I think it's probably one of her favorites, too—it's the very first poem in her new book, Every Dress a Decision) begins "I reach for my yellow dress. It bursts/into flame. Anything I remember/burns again." Such a muscular way to start a poem! Much of Austen's best stuff rings with a note of Plath. She writes about femininity—sex, the perceived vulnerability of girls, the roles of women in religion—with a voice that ranges from a tremulous whisper to an outraged howl.

Austen is a perfect example of an entry-level poet; you can pick up her book and understand the poetry without knowing anything more than the fact that the author is a female poet. Some books of poetry are dense and quarrelsome, and that's lovely, too, but the pleasure of Austen is that everyone is welcome. Which is not to say she writes cheery poems about dogs—death malingers in every other corner, in Czech police reports and tucked away politely in urns—but just that her language is probably your language, except she makes her language dance harder.

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Austen reads tonight at Cheap Wine and Poetry at the Hugo House, where it's free to get in and wine costs a buck a glass. She'll be joined by three other poets, including local treasure Paul Nelson, who a few years ago wrote a brilliant book-length poem about the history of Auburn, Washington called A Time Before Slaughter.

It's a good night for readings. Find out what else is going on in the readings calendar.