Selfies with Poetry #3: Linette Reeman, Emma Bolden, Prairie M. Faul, Shanna Compton, & Amorak Huey

Bloodmuck by Linette Reeman (The Atlas Review – TAR Chapbook Series)


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Top Picks: “Carrie Buck and I Compare Surgery Scars,” “I, Too,” “Pedigree of Alcoholism in the Author’s Family
Quote: “a body is just/ a place to put yourself until something / better comes along.”
Don’t Take
My Word for It

Why You Might Like It: Great place for folks who are looking to explore the bridges between page poetry & performance/slam poetry & how the two can inform each other. Bloodmuck explores gender, identity, & trauma in ways that are both delicate & fierce in equal measure. Every poem is deeply personal, in a way that speaks to the threads of ferocity & grace that allow us to survive in the most inhospitable climates. The typography of the poems (much like the issues they explore) is innovative, experimental, and refuses to conform to convention—a deft move by the poet to have the syntax of the work mirror the movement of the ideas it conveys to the reader, pushing for the reader to challenge their preconceived ideas, whether grammatical or social. The lines and line breaks play hide & seek with convention, turning language rules inside-out to make the reader decide what meaning is assigned, and where. The poems are bold & subdued, an accounting of everything that’s being grieved & a chronicle of loss. Not only do they make space for the reader to begin the conversations they’ve been avoiding, they also hold the reader accountable for the consequences of letting sleeping dogs lie.

House Is an Enigma by Emma Bolden (Southeast Missouri State Press)

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Top Picks: “I Am Writing a Story and You Are Reading It,” “In Every Tale About Hunger,” “I Was a Bad Child & I Was a Match,” “The Daughter I Will Never Have”
Quote: “Forget all of the whats that I said & you can / have the sea if you want it.”
Don’t Take My Word for It 

Why You Might Like It: Particularly recommended for readers who have undergone a surgical procedure which has compromised what most people think about only in abstracts when broadly discussing “the biology of being woman.” Most of this manuscript was written in the wake of the poet’s radical hysterectomy & uses the “house” metaphors that modern Western medicine leans on when discussing women’s health care as a leitmotif that recurs throughout the book. Despite the highly personal nature of their genesis, I think the poems speak broadly to people of all gender identities who have experienced surgical trauma, or the trauma often associated with feminine or gender non-conforming-coded bodies & invasive procedures that leave you different. These poems are an exercise in creating boundaries and coping behaviors, which lead to the body’s attempts to healing itself, as well as the mind. If your body feels like a place you stay but not where you live & you’re trying to get there, this book is a beacon of hope & a map that may help you find your way to calling your body home.

In the House We Built by Prairie M. Faul (Bottlecap Press)

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Top Picks: “God’s twin children drag chalk against the sky,” “The hayseed burning,” “On the Cusp of Beginning Again,” “Seed”
Quote: “the world is burning & my hands are still cold”
Don’t Take My Word for It

Why You Might Like It: In the House We Built is very similar to House is An Enigma, in that it also implements the feminized body as a house metaphor, except this collection explores that trope through the lens of a trans girl. There is a sense of both urgency & intensity in being surrounded by the world while trying to construct something sound, lasting, a refuge for the psychic self. These poems explore both the drawing up of boundaries and the charting of desire—the way the body insists on staying present, even as its definitions depart, arrive, & depart again. This book, too, is about what it feels like when your body has always feels like a rental apartment, never somewhere you were planning to stay, so you’ve been living out of boxes. Then the poet challenges you to approach yourself like a first-time homeowner: make renovations, decorate, & finally allow yourself to feel the joy of discovery, the thrill of finally believing it’s your own.

For Girls (& Others) by Shanna Compton (Bloof Books)

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Top Picks: “This Is a Curious Machine,” “Dear Bread & Butter,” “Addressing the Fact that I am a Bad Person,” “We Know She Knows About Her Elephantine Legs”
Quote: “This is about me trying to understand/ why all of this is happening.”
Don’t Take My Word for It

Why You Might Like It: This is a weird, pioneering & tremendously clever collection of work, which uses both the persona poem & a satiric sensibility to provide a modern poetic twist on the “advice book” for women. The collection opening with the statement that the author “has nothing new to say,” on the topic of feminine etiquette & social norms applied to femininity. Compton then promptly then goes on to use the poems to say something very profound, questioning who these rules are meant for, who gets to write the rules, and what happens when a person doesn’t fall neatly into the binary of power. The poems are clever & singular, using everything from circa-1800’s religious sermons, news articles, gossip magazines, & historic women’s etiquette books as source material. The poet tells us from the outset what they aren’t going to do, and maybe these poems don’t exactly say something new, but rather, they pose the question: Can all these sources really be trusted to define what it means to identify as a woman?

The Insomniac Circus by Amorak Huey (Hyacinth Girl Press)

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Top Picks: “The Unicyclist Wonders If He’s Found the One,” “The Tight Rope Walker Gets High,” “The Human Cannonball Takes Her Best Shot at Redemption”
Quote: “it’s not the force of the trauma but the angle/ you need to worry about.”
Don’t Take My Word for It

Why You Might Like It: If the mystery & spectacle of showmanship appeals to you, The Insomniac Circus, with a tongue-in-cheek tone belying the more serious, often cheerless subject matter, this themed poetic collection of persona poems is your new fave. The titles are playful, as is, I think, the poet’s intent. Some explore the anticipatory build-up of before-curtains momentum. Others dig into the work of cleaning up after the show, & how empty everyday life can feel for the players, once they’ve gotten a taste for the adrenaline of performance. The reader is not only the ringleader of their own 3-ring circus, but every performer in the show & the world is just a series of different audiences. Taken as a suite, The Insomniac Circus is a smart, fun commentary on the glitz & glamour of the spectacle of a show, versus the reality of what happens in the off-hours, after the spotlight darkens & the crowds go home.

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 @kiddeternity.

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