Announcing the Third-Annual TAR Chapbook Winners!
On Diane Glancy’s It Was Over There By That Place: The language in this chapbook deliberately eschews floweriness in favor of a more concise study of the history of language itself. This is a meditation on inherited speech, as when Diane Glancy writes, “The thought that could with written words of their own write the world through punctuation of thought that connected with other thoughts in the places within place in the long run could not.” The way she interweaves trauma and etymology is fantastic, a gorgeous mixture of Maggie Nelson and Layli Long Soldier in its ontological investigations. “The English language would not listen,” she writes on grammar. “How the letters changed and took from the sound the way of its being.” In her use of the English language, we can feels its lack. Wikipedia represents a perpetual colonization in how it imitates the layering of histories, a metaphor for collective knowledge, itself colonized. There’s a deceptive ease to how Glancy walk us through memory and history, so difficult sometimes to disentangle.
On torrin a. greathouse’s boy/girl/ghost: What we loved about this chapbook is that it looms at its edges with deft clarity, the senses turned always to the imagination when the world fails to properly intervene. There’s a painful and complex admittance that always surprises us in its turns. torrin writes “i want to look like everything else / that has ever burned // “ and we believe her. We believe in every declaration here. The body in its ramshackle elegy, the body as bloodless as a dream, as chemical as every cosmic thing. There is a way torrin verbs in this collection that astounds us. They Houdini and language and ghost and witchcraft themself, which forces us to be awake to both the magic of speaking and its subterfuge and trickery. Language must belong to the trans body more than any other body, the words themselves a root the way “we are born only of our own bones.” But then the body is also untranslatable—”communion / is skin swallowing / its own limbs”—and thus we find ourselves in a technicolor spiral alongside torrin here, in this chapbook.
On Nadia Owusu’s So Devilish a Fire: “So Devilish a Fire,” is, well, absolute fire. The language is so clean yet layered. It’s an impossible essay to skim. Once you begin reading, you’re completely sucked in. It’s compelling and rich and smart as hell. We begin the essay with a circular evocation: “I floated in water of mother as she floated in Indian Ocean.” We know this will be about origins, but more accurately, it’s about being. Being in the world, being at once part of a village and a people and a world, being a woman, being apart, being a part. Those latter ideas of apart and a part are made concrete by the clever switches between first- and second-person narration. There’s an intimacy in distance when memory is involved. To venture from, “You were, at first, a wild beast, frothing at the mouth,” to “I am multiform, amalgamated, many-voiced” reveals the various tensions at play with even speaking at all, what it looks like, what it sounds like. This is a brilliant, incisive piece of writing.
On Linette W. Reeman’s BLOODMUCK: BLOODMUCK is a brave work, a work that could force its audience to listen and stew in discomfort. The work is very solidified in its identity. It doesn’t plea with us to understand, though we do. As a poet in this collection, Linette presents their wound without an easy interpretation. There are poems here that fix their gaze on the queer community itself, what it means to be in a community, and how a community can often fail its members. This is a perspective that often goes unheard, that community can be oppressive and can function as a means to disenfranchise and alienate its own. These poems are fiercely urgent, and they are capable of forcing a reaction regardless of audience. Linette’s work demands that we look at queerness in areas that elicit discomfort. It demands that we see this word “queer” and really look at its vagaries, its dimensions, its challenges to norms. This is a unique, penetrating, and historical lens of experience. The craft is smart and daring. It hurts.
On Ellena Savage’s Yellow City: This is a painful and frustrating account of a traumatic night, one that is very close to so many survivors. Last year, following an assault on the street, I sat in one precinct after the other, telling the same story to unbelieving faces of authority. The case was thrown away before it was ever a case. Ellena’s story sent me spiraling back to then, and it also gave me renewed anger on her behalf as well as my own. Yellow City is a gorgeous and heartbreakingly visceral essay that disrupts and reinvents form to speak. Her language is so careful, so well crafted and constructed. It must be so, given that she endured what she did. Endurance of this kind requires a cold level of clarity that twists in the wound to speak. It is extraordinary, from beginning to end.