Before We Leave 2015

I came across a few collections this year that I wanted to let everyone know how amazing they were before the end of the year. 

 

POSTCARD POEMS

Postcard Poems written by Jamie Berrout, a queer Mexican trans woman writer from the South Texas border. Other collections she has written include Otros Valles and Incomplete Short Stories and Essays.  Berrout makes her work available to other trans women at no cost. She is co-editor of a collection of short fiction featuring trans women of color.

Beautiful prose of longing and desire and solitude that comes when you’ve been alone too long.  The  snapshots  of time are divided into three sections-Portland, LA and South Texas border. I first came to know her words on tumblr a while ago-that place where 956 and radical and queer folks seem to gravitate towards when our geographical location lacks the space and know-how to hold us.  And as it always seems to happen, she has since left the border area. Support her work via Patreon

Because we live on the river and drink from the river, live from the excess and remains of the upland. Having been born into a life and wanting nothing more. When I say, “This is witchcraft” and when I say, “These are spirits and these are ghosts,” I am speaking from experience. The law is different here. You pray for your salvation and you pray for the destruction of your rivals: there are enough stories and there are enough gods for you to have love. 

Sad Girls & Other Stories

Sad Girls & Other Stories written by Margaret Elysia Garcia was published earlier this year. A collection of stories that end too soon, of home and loneliness and growing up. Set in a time that is no more in Los Angeles, of coming of age and wanting to cry when you see your mom share an ice cream with a friend and you can’t figure out why. A perpetually sad Latina myself, I could identify with the core sadness but the place is far from the hot South Texas childhood of my dystopian story where the university was always, hopefully, the place a few chosen would leave to attend after high school and hoped as hell you never came back. But it seems the perpetual sad girls and Mexi-goths can be found everywhere. Read all her work, it’s infectious.

MILK AND HONEY

 

Becoming hugely popular on social media earlier this year, snippets of Rupi Kaur's poems have been shared and reshared dozens of times. She shares her own poems on Instagram too and its an effective way of reaching readers. Don't let that stop you from picking up a copy of the actual collection. Divided into four sections, Milk and Honey is at times painful and achy and at other times serves as reminders on what we have survived and what we have lost. You can find recorded versions of some of her poems on her site.

 i thank the universe/ for taking everything it has taken/ and giving to me/ everything it is giving/ -balance

rupisnip

-From Kaur's Instagram

Monsters and Other Silent Creatures

Monsters and Other Silent Creatures and No God but Ghosts are two short collections written by Mai'a Williams released earlier this year. Williams is co-editor of the upcoming anthology Revolutionary Motherhood: Love on the Frontlines and her name also might be familiar from Outlaw Midwives, or the many movements she has participated in or reported on. A few sentences to describe these two collections won’t do them justice. In the intro to No God but Ghosts Williams says she chose motherhood and she carries rituals within this rootless life she documents, presenting to us poems and longer pieces she wrote while in Cairo or Berlin.  


From April in Cairo

Do you remember those days after the revolution, when the train stations’ names changed to the scrawled signatures of martyrs rising from the steam off the tracks and we ran behind the cars in the streets with beer bottles and gold­lamé hope in our hands?

In Monsters and Other Silent Creatures Williams tells us in the acknowledgements she wanted to write the story of monsters, and "the people whom monsters silence." It is a different time and frame of mind than her other collection. There is a frailty to love or some kin to love, before motherhood comes into the picture or soldiers and death wipe the idea away.


From cut

when she couldn’t think of what to say

she sang poems

‘show off,’ I’d say

my hands underneath her dress

‘show me what you can do’

and she’d show me

how to point that gun and shoot

 
Monsters & Other Silent Creatures
No Gods but Ghosts

Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

bodymapcover1

This border is rotten meat, a hallucination, a wavering line insh'allah, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Bodymap written Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha was a small collection of poems I read early in the year when I was going through an intense bout of body pain and sitting in clinics. For me, it did that thing where the room disappeared and I wanted to savor each piece, afraid the next poem would be the last.

Piepzna-Samarasinha is a queer disabled femme poet of color wrote Bodymap in 2015. A few collections she has written include Consensual Genocide (2006), Love Cake (2011) and Dirty River: A queer Femme of Color Dreaming her Way Home (2015). In this collection she writes on disability and chronic illness from a queer and femme person of color lens. A few subjects that she covers are home/borders, queer desire, disability and chronic illness, working class struggles, police brutality, survivorhood and transformative love.

yes you came back, yes the border will open, you will live in all the places your heart lives, you will come homediaspora, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Poetry, poetry that makes the world disappear as you read it, remind us that even among stories of poverty and war, there are good people searching for hope and finding love. The people that you meet in uncertain and fucked up times, for those that can’t return home, can’t touch their homeland, tentatively tongue the word “diaspora,” these poems are for you.

 

 

aTo be in diaspora, maybe

You are always a ghost

Always missing something.

diaspora, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

We witness her life and  heart as she tells us stories of meetings and organizing protests, of fighting against police brutality and the murder of Black and people of color against the backdrop of freedom and humanity. We are asked to witness acts of dehumanization against bodies of color where hopelessness and despair do not overwhelm but transform into love.

This collection of poetry can read like a manual for some, and it did for me. As a poet, it also gave me permission to write on things I’ve always felt I couldn’t address in poetry-chronic illness, breakups with partners who don’t understand what love is resistance means, broken/crip bodies, not being consumed with anger after being loved, “though at times every cell in my pissed-off/broke brown girl body wants to.”*
*From Love is Resistance in Bodymap.