In The Small Blades Hurt, Erica Dawson picks up where her debut collection, Big-Eyed Afraid, leaves off: "The world's outside. I'm in." She moves from her border state Maryland to the true South, the Midwest, and back, delivering poems where a single dance's story can tangle with America's collective past. Dawson finds a home in the tradition of formal poetry, carving a place all her own, whether manic, yet cozy, in a poem with only one rhyme, or calm in a crown of sonnets' claustrophobia. Everything from Al Green to Abraham Lincoln is fair game. No matter the form, as Dawson eyes nuances of lust and love, of a future's should and would, of accidents and the ache of a plan gone wrong, she uncovers a world where everything actually is black and white. People and places look overwhelmingly absent of color and, equally, doused with every possible hue. Dawson writes, "In Tampa, I'm out for blood." Even when the world seems to have steadied itself, The Small Blades Hurt reminds us that we may have the tendency to lead, but "someone must slip and feel it."