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

Poem: Outcast

First published on Patreon on 2nd July

I love this poem. I don’t know if it counts as my best work, but I love it. It’s very queer, because of course it is, and references Christianity, because of course it does. I love it because whilst it’s about love, about loving while queer, it’s not about romantic love. I love it because it’s about loneliness and loss and hope. I love it because it makes me a little uncomfortable.

My heart has slowed
Remembering to move muscle
Expand lungs
Shed skin
It’s a lot when my mind is fixed on
On the way xir breath is
Just a little too even
And xie blinks every
8.3 seconds
On the way xie
Stands out
Blends in
Pink painted lips and
Biker boots and
Poppy red sequins
Xir hair is grey
A perfectly imperfect buzzcut
It smells like cheap shampoo
And almond oil
So unlike Mae’s
Impossibly black
Rose scented
Corkscrew curls

It works in a city like this
It works to remind me of home
Where the winds peel you a new skin
In red or gold or copper
Where the sky is
The grey-black of wet concrete
Where rain falls but once a year
And persimmons come thick in wintertime
We knew a hundred words for dry
A thousand for hot

I start breathing again
Light and slightly asymmetric
Each exhale around
0.6 seconds different
To the last
The devil is in the details
So to speak
Xie hasn’t learned the details
I want to teach xem the details
To learn how xie was born
And died
And cast out
And born
To tell xem how they clipped my wings
Crammed my soul into a
Wattle and daub shell
And expected me to survive the cold

It has been an age since the last
Since the Trials
Since the hunt and the
Fear and the
Freezing water
Since those of us with
Perfect dark eyes
And blink quick steps
And smiles fit to steal a soul
Mae was confident
Taught me how to survive on more
Than the memory of
Basalt and sulphur
Refused to learn
How to dream of fire
Without smelling like smoke

I make myself known
In the way that we know
I hope we’re a we
I am seldom wrong about kith
But it has been so long
Xie sees me
And turns to look
Not bothering to smile
The air shimmers around xem
Tastes like acid rain and black ash
We are a we
I’m sure of it
Xir dark
Unremarkable face
Is shuttered closed
Displaying nothing
But I am older
I can see xir
Heartbeat stutter to nothing
Smell the salt spray
Suspicion and hope
And I breathe a smile
Xie is careful
So might just survive
Live long enough that we can become
Or something like it
Xie is silent
And still
Like I am still

I hold out my hand
I go by Chi these days,
How long since you were left?”

Poem: A Landmark (Inspired by LS Lowry)

First published on Patreon on February 8th 

I went to the Lowry a little while back and I was sat with my laptop looking at the artwork. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of a lot of it, but for some reason this painting in particular struck me. So, I did what any self respecting poet would do, and I wrote about it.


See how the hills stand before you

See your goal in the distance


See how well it is painted

See how vague

See how the mist seems to wrap around you

See your part in it


See how the landmark waits for you

See how it stands stark against the sky

See the sky

See it heavy, pregnant with tomorrow’s rain

See the blue/white/grey of it

See how the shadows part before you


See the stage

See it set

See the lakes and the hills and the sky

See your part in it

See your quest

See your goal

See the needle point of it

See it reach for you

See how you will reach for it


See how you will knock down the hills

See how you will tear apart the sky

See the forests and mountains you will craft

See the colours you will paint them

See how they will shine, mirror-like when you finish

See your part in it

See how it will change you

See your greatness

See fearlessly

See clearly,

Always see

An Amateur Review of Sunfish, by Shelby Eileen

First published on Patreon on 14th June

Edited 9th September to respect Shelby’s pronouns

I follow Shelby on twitter (@briseisbooks), and I really enjoyed their first collection Soft in the Middle so when they put out a call for anyone who wants an ARC, naturally I said yes.
I’m not a poetry reviewer and, despite writing so much of it myself, I know precious little about what makes one poem good or bad. But I do know that Sunfish is good.
It’s easy to read in that none of the poems punch you in the face but this is a good thing. It’s gentle, patient, meets you where you’re at rather than forcing to look.
When I’m reading Sunfish it’s not like talking to a friend, because I don’t know Shelby like that and it’s much too honest a book for that kind of presumed familiarity. It’s not like a conversation, because there is nothing for me to say back to them. This collection feels like sitting on a bench in an empty park in early spring and listening to a stranger talk. It feels like a moment of unearned intimacy that reminds you how important it is for humans to connect. It feels a little uncomfortable, because Shelby is all but a stranger and there’s nothing for you to say, because I’m sorry doesn’t ring true. It feels like understanding how they feel, but having no words for but that’s OK, because the only words needed are theirs anyway.
Sunfish feels like silence. It’s the reminder that silence, loneliness and powerlessness aren’t the same thing. That not everything requires a response and sometimes you just need to listen. Sunfish makes you want to listen.