An Amateur Review of & by Amy Kinsman

First published on Patreon 20th September 2018

I met Amy at Verbose Manchester back in May and I loved their performance. So, naturally, I found their twitter and ordered their pamphlet.

In short, I like it. This is hardly a surprise seeing as I’ve enjoyed both of the collections I’ve reviewed. Either I’ve had terrific luck thus far or I’m not terribly discerning. I rather hope it’s the former or these reviews will just become adverts really fast. But we’ll cross that particular bridge when we get to it.

The collection is mythic and sensual. Even when Amy is talking about themself I get a sense of distance, like they’re writing their own beautifully mundane legend. There’s a level of gentility in their writing I really appreciate, one that softens the occasionally explicit sexuality of the pamphlet.

However, this gentility and mysticism sometimes tips into meandering. The longest piece, it’s like this feels about 1/3 too long. It’s beautifully written, unashamedly bi/queer and takes its time exploring the ambivalent complexity of romantic/sexual past loves. But it could maybe do with a little more haste.

I think Amy’s strongest pieces are the briefest ones. the moth, the moon and the bathroom light is only 13 lines long and is easily my favourite poem in the collection. The second stanza is a thing of beauty and I would love to see it on a print/poster:

the moth knows nothing of lycanthropy –
satellites, orbits, celestial bodies, gods, tides,
devoted insect that it is, hurting, forgetting

That being said, this is still a well crafted, heartfelt, gentle collection. It blunts the harshest edges of difficult emotions so it can slip between your ribs and nestle behind your heart without you even noticing. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

You can find & in some of the following places:

Amazon/Indigo Dreams

Cover image is the cover of &: A white ampersand on a brick wall. ‘Winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize 2017’ is printed across the top.

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An Amateur Review of Peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva

First published on Patreon on August 23, 2018
Like a lot of people, I’ve seen Melissa‘s poems floating around social media. Her performances are hilarious and poignant and in the way she discusses in this article (that I would highly recommend), very much a performance. Not to say that it’s inauthentic – and what even is authenticity anyway? – but that she performs for her audience, even if that audience is herself.
I see this reflected in Peluda. She explains herself but doesn’t, like she wants you to understand but isn’t gonna break it down if you don’t get it. So I don’t get it, in a lot of ways. The collections talks a lot about body hair, about it’s removal and what that means. It talks a lot about growing up in the space between ‘immigrant’ and ‘American’. Being in immigrant kid, with the rootlessness and expectation that comes with it, strikes a chord. But a lot of specificity, a lot of the content rooted in Latindad, I don’t understand on that bone deep level. That’s OK though, I don’t need to get it.
The style is loud, unapologetic even in it’s apology. One moment that stuck out for me more than any other is in You Use Your Hands So Much When You Talk:
alternate universe where! daughters of immigrants/are not overwhelmed by all that they are/supposed to be
Also the Wolf Girl Suite is pretty incredible. If you read nothing else in this collection, read that.
In case you can’t tell, I like this collection a lot. I would definitely recommend it. If you can get it from your local library or independent bookshop please do. Here are some places you can get it online:
The cover image is the cover of Peluda. 3 identical illustrations of a dark haired person kneeling in black boots spread out on a yellow background.

 

This is a poem loosely inspired Greek myth. And when I say loosely, I mean loosely. Everything I know about Ancient Greece comes from Disney’s Hercules and 15 minutes spent on Wikipedia. It’s inspired by Greek myth in the same way horror films are inspired by a true story.

It’s a poem about trauma, about telling the other side to the story, about that sometimes not being enough. But mostly it’s about hope and change and growth and what it means to be a monster.

Find more of my work on Patreon

Performance Poem: Ares

On Poetry, Imagery and Blasphemy

I was raised Catholic. I know. Shocker. I definitely don’t mention it at every opportunity. Culturally, I’m still really Catholic, but I stopped practising a few years back. The reasons why are lengthy and complex and painful and really not worth going into here. But I was raised on incense and the mass and Latin prayers and an innumerable number of saints and rolling my eyes at Protestants.
I love Catholic imagery. I love the many layered symbolism in colours and flowers and candles. It’s so rich and deep and perfect for poetic inspiration. However, since I am still in the midst of writing a deeply egocentric imperialist with a slight messianic streak…I feel like I’m flirting with blasphemy. Technically, being a non-believer and all, it shouldn’t matter. But you can’t unpick a childhood of worship instantly. So I still have a great deal of respect/reverence for the faith that made me who I am today. It’s not easy to casually disrespect something that part of me still holds sacred.

So, when I did approach mixing and matching (Western European) Catholic imagery and cultural references, I tried to be a little more circumspect. I tried to approach it as blasphemy and draw out some kind of critique from there.

For instance, in Lily and Marigold, the faerie queen you summon is supposed to be reminiscent of Our Lady of Lourdes. She appears next to a stream, surrounded in flowers and dressed in white. The flowers in the poem were mostly chosen invoke/reference Marian mythologies. Lilies symbolise St Mary’s purity, roses her beauty. I heard a legend once that when the holy family fled into Egypt they were attacked by bandits. When the bandits tried to steal Mary’s gold, all they got were the yellow orange flowers, hence marigold. Iris flowers symbolise her sorrow. Foxgloves are just there to remind you that the faerie queen’s poisonous and not to be trusted. (The title, Lily and Marigold is therefore, in effect, sorrow and wealth. Which is kind of on the nose, but you know.)

notre_dame_de_lourdes

For a character to fashion herself, and the ritual to summon her, so closely after the most powerful woman in Catholic canon, that speaks to a level of arrogance, no? In courting blasphemy, in fashioning a villain after the literal queen of heaven, I want to draw attention to the level of egocentrism, the excessive pride of said character.

I seldom write about men, so it is unlikely that I will be drawing direct parallels to Jesus any time soon. But I fully intend to keep playing with blasphemy, to skirting as its edges. I will do so from a place of love and respect for the faith/cultural tradition I grew up in, the faith most of my family still practice. But there is too much symbolism there, too many ways to infer and imply meaning, too much history to call upon and reference, for me to forgo it entirely.