Gabi Abrāo’s Notes on Shapeshifting is an ode to existing in physical form, fully aware of the changing energy that flows through every aspect of it. As Abrāo writes, “tapping into the ether body to take a break from the demands of the earth body, / making peace with ephemerality, / lightness, / shapeshifting”. Throughout this collection, you are invited to travel through various states; pure infatuation to heartbreak, confidence to defeat, from a skepticism for living to a full-on trust in it. Notes on Shapeshifting yearns to soothe and arouse along the way.
“Gabi Abrão’s slim, precious chapbook contains a fail-safe guide to breakups, raw poems and memories of personal metamorphosis.”
— Jon Caramanica, The New York Times
The purpose of poetry makes life’s existential conundrums seem a little smaller, a little easier to digest. It makes sense that people really like writing poems on a platform like Instagram, a tool that equally invites and distracts from existentialist questions. Gabi Abrão has been sharing her writing online since the days of Neopets, where, despite not being a form of social media, she would find a way to finagle little quotes or poems into her profile. She started sharing writing on the Instagram account @sighswoon in 2017 as a place to exorcise anxieties around growing up or share funny stories about people she met in L.A., as well as make memes about texting your higher self, or penning long, meandering captions about the expansiveness of her feelings.
Her book Notes on Shapeshifting takes old and new works to create a collection that is part poetry, part manual on how to take in the intensity of feeling so much. Weighing less than a cappuccino, it’s a guide that you can slip into any bag for when you want to microdose existentialism, ultimately coming out in a place where you’re most soothed – because watching a young person coming to terms with the immense, boundless feelings they have, which includes their big disappointments and bigger realizations, is deeply relatable.
The book features sections involving love, home, and heartbreak, quoting everyone from the Brazilian surrealist poet Clarice Lispector (one of Abrão’s greatest inspirations) to Lana Del Rey, whom Abrão loves for her “unceasing indulgence.” Abrão has big thoughts better fit for the page than the screen for the seemingly innocuous times in life that occur “somewhere between my mattress on the floor and the toaster oven, somewhere between breakfast and the demands of the day.”