Selfies with Poetry #2: Jason Bayani, Chelsea Margaret Bodnar, sam sax, Jessie Lynn McMains, & Neil Hilborn

Amulet by Jason Bayani (Write Bloody Press)

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Don’t Take My Word for It
Top Pick: Broken Crown of Sonnets for the End of the World
Quote: “…that you might remember me a place in this world.”
Why You Might Like It: The push/pull of growing up first generation Filipino-American in the Bay Area permeates most of Bayani’s body of work, & anyone who lives in that liminal space between the expectations of two distinct, yet interconnected, cultures can probably find emotional space that connects them to the poems of this collection. There’s an undercurrent of musicality and humor to his writing, which makes the heart-punch that often accompanies it sneak up on you sometimes.


Basement Gemini by Chelsea Margaret Bodnar (Hyacinth Girl Press)

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Don’t Take My Word for It
Top Pick: These poems aren’t titled, so it’s hard to isolate one as a stand-alone. It’s a short chapbook & it’s best read in one sitting, because the pieces all work together to create a bigger narrative: it’s almost like watching a horror movie unfold poetically from page to page.
Quote: “And final girl, no one can get out perfect. Your dead friends cropping up in nightmares. Maybe if you’d paid him more attention. Maybe if you’d been fucked-up from the onset none of this would’ve happened.”
Why You Might Like It: This collection is a weird, wild spin on the horror movie genre tropes & the American fixation on female bodies imperiled, hunted, or killed. It’s a fantastic accompaniment for folks who loved Emily O’Neill’s You Can’t Choose Your Genre or Claire C. Holland’s I Am Not Your Final Girl—this trio of poetic explorations of the female form in horror movies could be a class in itself, and Basement Gemini is a masterful exercise in poetic conceit, a threaded collection displaying how pop culture normalizes the horrific.


Bury It by sam sax (Wesleyan Poetry Series)

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Don’t Take My Word for It
Top Pick: Hydrophobia, Bildungsroman, Butt Plug (I promise, it’s different than whatever you’re imagining right now)
Quote: “…dad it will be a monster / we should bury it.”
Why You Might Like It: sam sax is one of those poetic titans that prove that slam poetry & page poetry have more in common than academia wants to talk about—Bury It is a masterful collection that works from a central point of grief & loss to explore death, desire, & the transitions of adulthood through a myriad of different poetic devices, which all work together to create a sort of mournful mantra, with the phrase “bury it” re-emerging throughout the collection in different ways for the reader to examine all the things that might be buried—both the monstrous & the lost—and why we might want to (need to?) bury these things.


It’s Like That/Self-Portrait at Twenty-Two by Jessie Lynn McMains (Holy & Intoxicated Publications)

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Don’t Take My Word for It
Top Pick: It’s Like That/Self-Portrait at Twenty-Two (broadsheet)
Quote: “…but the closer my / Hand gets, the faster they swirl / away”
Why You Might Like It: If you were really excited to learn in the 90s that it was possible to be a girl/female presenting, punk rock, AND a poet all at the same time, have I got a poet for you to read. There’s a raw, wild energy to every poem I’ve read by McMains & they all seem to build bridges between the people we become as adults & the angry hellions we used to be—how to make a truce between these conflicted hearts in one body? It’s part anarchy & part elegy, wearing a leather motorcycle jacket with patches all over it. Every poem is an exploration of that conflict, & the brief, wondrous moments of rest we find between every skirmish of self.


The Future by Neil Hilborn (Button Poetry)

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Don’t Take My Word for It
Top Pick: I Don’t Need To Have a Better Day, I Need To Feel Better About This One, Rust Belt, The Future
Quote: “The future is a blue sky and a full / tank of gas. I saw the future, I did, / and in it I was alive.”
Why You Might Like It: Because everyone who grapples with mental health issues could use a good laugh, & the laughter is necessary to plumbing some of these depths. Anyone who’s been away from home for extended periods of time, has moved, or otherwise disrupted their usual day-to-day routine & has felt the displacement’s effects on their mental health will be able to relate to this collection. It’s funny, witty, & serious all at the same time, and the levity it offers makes the “talking about it” a little easier.


Allie Marini is a cross-genre Southern writer. In addition to her work on the page, Allie was a 2017 Oakland Poetry Slam team member & writes poetry, fiction, essays, performing in the Bay Area, where as a native Floridian, she is always cold. Find her online: www.alliemarini.com or @kiddeternity.

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