Selfies with Poetry Archive

Below is an archive of Selifes with Poetry, a series authored by Allie Marini originally presented over three installments.

Domestic & Fowl by Devin Devine

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Top Picks:  “Hera” and “Nancy Drew Hates That I Drink & Most Days, I Do Too”
Quote: “The world bloomed on our wedding day like a giant middle finger.”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Hera” and “Thirsty As A House Plant

Why You Might Like It: There’s something magical about watching slam poets perform to audiences that are engaged, captivated, interacting with the art as it’s happening in front of them. Devin Devine is a consummate performer, vibrant, alive, angry, & beatific in equal measures. Whether on page or on stage, these poems leap into life, daring you to put them down, challenging you to see them through to their conclusion. Page poets are no stranger to taking the iconography of classical mythology & using it to their own ends, but I ask you to find a poet who takes one of mythology’s most maligned goddesses—Hera—and brings her to life in a way where you as the captive audience find yourself capable  of feeling empathy, love, and compassion for her.

SIR by Evolve Benton

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Top Picks: “10 Ways to Survive as a Black Boi in Los Angeles” and “I Looked My Last Name Up on Google”
Quote: “See, I make masculinity look pretty.”
Don’t Take My Word for It: OUTList 2017BOI, and How to Be a Trans Ally: The Video

Why You Might Like It: First & foremost: Evolve Benton’s work is a celebration of queerness, blackness, and joy. That’s a rare trifecta in the world of published poetry & one that is desperately needed to help bring equity to the world of modern American poetics. Benton’s work is, at its core, an expression on their ethos of ‘boihood’: a redefinition of the traditional conception of masculinity, an interrogation of the destructive aspects of that traditionally held view of masculinity, and a tender, loving examination of the intersections of both masculinity & blackness. SIR is also focused on innovating ideas on how to reclaim the world ‘masculine’ and improve upon it, round it out, bring it a newfound beauty that the Westernized world has denied it. SIR doesn’t shy away from paying tribute to the violence, poverty, & instability of their life’s experience—but the poems of SIR reveal a resilience that’s born of hardship, proving that the reclamation of joy is the greatest triumph a boi can achieve, a call to bois to let them know that joy belongs to them, & the power to take it has always been in their hands.

Rome by Dorothea Lasky

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Top Picks: “What’s Worse,” “Diet Mountain Dew,” and “Poem to Florence”
Quote: “I watch porn / Cause I’ll never be in love / Except with you dear reader”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Kitchen Tiny TourDepression, and Five Things Right Now (Interview)

Why You Might Like It: These poems, as the title implies, are composed with a nod to the poets of Rome, like Homer, Catullus, Horace: however, these explorations are confessional, vulnerable, & bring a modern sensibility to the work. There’s a thread of heartbreak, disappointment, & hopelessness stitching together the collection, almost like a glimpse of what Plath or Sexton might have written, had they been born in a later generation. But make no mistake: the speaker of these poems isn’t asking the reader to pity them. Instead, these poems ask the reader to hold space for those kinds of feelings in their own overworked, underpaid lives, rife with everyday disappointments & small failures. Rome feels both familiar & fresh, like coming home to your teenage bedroom after having lived on your own for long enough that you with you could go backward in time.

Oh God Get Out Get Out by Bill Moran

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Top Picks: “Oh God Get Out Get Out,” “I Hate This Drink I’ll Have Another,” “Paw,” and “Heir Loom”
Don’t Take My Word for It: Oh God Get Out Get OutPawBill Moran Bandcamp (audio poems)

Why You Might Like It: These poems tread a fine line between prayer & exorcism—there’s elegy & dirge all mixed up with violence & vitriol. Oh God Get Out Get Out is the highest level of the sacred & profane. Some of the poems make you feel like you’re free-falling without a parachute, watching the ground rise up beneath you while taking in the breathlessness of the view before impact. They’re a punch in the face, then laughing while you spit out teeth & blood. Syntactically, Moran writes in a way that’s adventurous, disorienting, instantly recognizable, & frenetic, matching what’s happening on the page to what’s happening in the language, reflecting what’s happening in the reader’s emotions as the speaker takes you on a wild journey then pushes you from a moving car. If you like poems that rough you up to tell you they love you, Oh God Get Out Get Out should be your next pick.

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

Bloodmuck

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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.

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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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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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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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