BY JOANNA C. VALENTE
Here are some books that stole my heart and mind recently (and still haven't given them back):
1. Lynn Melnick - "Landscape with Sex and Violence" (YesYes Books, Oct 2017)
This book explores rape culture - and what it means to be a sexual assault survivor in a landscape that is unsafe, that demands women and femmes be sexual objects for the male gaze's insatiable hunger. These poems are raw, but also so controlled, they leave my body shriveled up but wanting more. Read two of her poems from the book here, at A Public Space:
"I was smut.
The rest was burnished."
2. Ariel Francisco - "All My Heroes Are Broke" (C&R Press, Sept 2017)
This poetry collection is the narrative we've all been waiting for, and need to read. It's written from the perspective of a first generation American - and how to navigate in a country where the American Dream isn't possible, a dream where the narrator's parents are currently speaking (and of course, the narrator to some extent as well). The landscapes stretching from Florida to New York City cleverly and masterfully work to set the stage, so to speak, and show how place can truly be both a prison and an escape. The emotional isolation, which is the narrator's own personal landscape, seems inescapable, but part of the elusive dream we all seek to escape. Check out a poem below:
3. Prerna Bakshi - "Burnt Rotis, With Love" (Les Éditions du Zaporogue, Denmark, 2016)
Bakshi writes about what it's like being a woman today living in the developing world, what it's like to have a female body, and how dangerous it is. This collection is so necessary, illustrating how being a woman is a political act in itself, documenting the experiences of murdered women, domestic abuse survivors, factory workers, and more. It's a must-read for anyone alive right now. From her poem, "Color(less)":
Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016) and the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere.