As Women’s History Month comes to a close, check out some of the amazing recent BOA titles written by women! Below you’ll find a mix of poems and book descriptions to pique your interest and get you excited to read (or re-read) these dynamic and heart-felt collections.
Letters to a Young Brown Girl by Barbara Jane Reyes
Excerpt from "Dear Brown Girl,"
What if I told you that you don’t have to do as you’re told. Yes, you can cut up the script they made you recite by heart with your cut up tongue. Yes, by those people, who wanted you to be their lace trimmed, pink silk ribboned heart shaped box. Yes, they wanted you to let them open you up, they wanted to slit, split open all your little smooth sweet pieces, to mouth you, to melt you. As if you would just let them. Yes, you are allowed to open, twirl your butterfly-bladed words—siete cuchillos, I see you sister, your swift knives concealed under your lace edged, silk ribboned skirt.
Year of the Dog by Deborah Paredez
In the tradition of women as the unsung keepers of history, Deborah Paredez’s second poetry collection tells her story as a Latina daughter of the Vietnam War.
The title refers to the year 1970—the Year of the Metal Dog in the lunar calendar—which was the year of the author’s birth, the year her father prepared to deploy to Vietnam along with many other Mexican-American immigrant soldiers, and a year of tremendous upheaval across the United States. Images from iconic photographs and her father’s snapshots are incorporated, fragmented, scrutinized, and reconstructed throughout the collection as Paredez recalls untold stories from a war that changed her family and the nation. Paredez recontextualizes the Vietnam era, from the arrest of Angela Davis to the haunting image of Mary Ann Vecchio at the Kent State Massacre, never forgetting the outcry and outrage that women’s voices have carried across time.
I Am Not Trying to Hide My Hungers from the World by Kendra Decolo
"How to Nurture Your Inner Life"
1. Take long walks, gray hairs frizzled in the humidity, baby sleeping on your chest. 2. Nod as if listening to music. 3. Record the sound of falling chestnuts, the neighbor’s Shih Tzus rushing the fence. 4. Pretend you’re going somewhere important. 5. Tune out. 6. Let yourself look like a mess. 7. Ignore the neighbor. 8. Hold your own hand like you held your friend’s hair while she puked up strawberries in your dorm bathroom, the tiles stained pink for weeks. 9. Remember the smell of your sister’s wine vomit in the back of your Honda. You had a job interview the next day and got it even though you didn’t want it. 10. Get hungry, get angry, feel like you’re cornered and your cut man has disappeared. 11. Do not nap. 12. Send angry emails. 13. Tend to your jealousies like a mother of dragons. They will protect you when you need them. 14. Be righteous, be self-aggrandizing. 15. Write the worst poem in the world. 16. Show up even though you don’t know what to say. 17. Watch television when you want to write. Write when you want to watch television. 18. Make messes. 19. Bake. 20. Listen to Ani DiFranco on the scratchy CD you played the summer you lived alone in Provincetown and drove to the sunset every night. Remember the canopy of trees, sand in the road, people on bicycles with picnic baskets strapped to their backs. 21. Remember how it felt to be at the beginning, alone, your desires almost unbearable, how you kept trying to contain them, and they kept showing you where you needed to go.
Tracing the Horse by Diana Marie Delgado
Set in Southern California's San Gabriel Valley, Diana Marie Delgado’s debut poetry collection follows the coming-of-age of a young Mexican-American woman trying to make sense of who she is amidst a family and community weighted by violence and addiction. With bracing vulnerability, the collection chronicles the effects of her father’s drug use and her brother’s incarceration, asking the reader to consider reclamation and the power of the self.
Mother Country by Elana Bell
Excerpt from “Thresholds”
I do not remember the months my mother was gone,or how long until she came back to us.In the room, a pile of dolls.I cannot tell you their names.Or the color of their eyes, blinking.Or how many hours the little girl played,dressing them, making them speak,her knees pressing into the carpet.(Nobody asked, but I had a job to do).
Are We Ever Our Own by Gabrielle Lucille Fuentes (forthcoming May 24, 2022)
Moving between Cuba and the U.S., the stories in Are We Ever Our Own trace the paths of the women of the far-flung Armando Castell family. Related but unknown to each other, these women are exiles, immigrants, artists, outsiders, all in search of a sense of self and belonging. The owner of a professional mourning service investigates the disappearance of her employees. On the eve of the Cuban revolution, a young woman breaks into the mansion where she was once a servant to help the rebels and free herself. A musician in a traveling troupe recounts the last day she saw her father.
Linked by theme and complex familial bonds, these stories shift across genres and forms to excavate the violence wreaked on women’s bodies and document the attempt to create something meaningful in the face of loss. They ask: who do we belong to? What, if anything, belongs to us?
Good Woman by Lucille Clifton
“february 13, 1980”
twenty-one years of my life you have beenthe lost color in my eye. my secret blindness,all my seeings turned grey with your going.mother, i have worn your name like a shield.it has torn but protected me all these years,now even your absence comes of age.i put on a dress called woman for this daybut i am not grown away from youwhatever i say.
The Rapture Index: A Suburban Bestiary by Molly Reid
Loosely based on the medieval bestiary, The Rapture Index examines the relationship between animals, humans, and storytelling. Harnessing the bestiary’s combination of religious parable, encyclopedia, and artifice, Molly Reid journeys deep into suburbia to reveal characters struggling to fulfill the expectations of society and family while indulging their baser desires. Filled with moments of curiosity, misunderstanding, fervor, and heart, these stories offer a new twist on familiar landscapes where the wilderness has been tamed (sometimes just barely) but our own animal nature cannot be.
The Naomi Letters by Rachel Mennies
Excerpt from "September 5, 2016"
I want to read you a poem—pink sky in the morning, it opens.A girl’s sky.When you look at me, do you see a woman who only knows how to love a man?These were the only stories read to me.This fault, too, is mine alone.Slowly the trees become visible, Olds writes, and the spaces between them.(This line makes me think of you—the white space in your letters.)All my life, I have looked out at the world and never seen between.I clung to each tree I could touch without moving.But here you are, Naomi, and I write to you at dawn.(Imagine being able to walk, into the woods, without fear.)The black sky holds all colors close. Anything could happen.I will wait here, reading, for the sun to rise, to show you what it decides.
Two Brown Dots by Danni Quintos (forthcoming April 12, 2022)
Two Brown Dots explores what it means to be a racially ambiguous, multiethnic, Asian American woman growing up in Kentucky. The mixed-race daughter of a dark skinned Filipino immigrant, Quintos retells family stories and Philippine folklore to try and make sense of an identity with roots on opposite sides of the globe. Encompassing a whole journey from girlhood to motherhood, Two Brown Dots subverts stereotypes to reclaim agency and pride in the realness and rawness and unprettyness of a brown girl’s body, boldly declaring: We exist, we belong, we are from here, and we will continue to be.
Dresses from the Old Country by Laura Read
Excerpt from "Vaccination"
The scar on my arm is thin like the skinof a fruit close to splitting.It marks my birth as before ’72,before the end of smallpox but after polio,after the wheelchairs and the iron lungs,the radios crackling with war.If you were born then, you remembertaking your Halloween candyto the fire station to have it checkedfor razor blades. Maybe there was oneblack girl in your class like Martha Washingtonwho brought upside-down clown conesfor her birthday and then moved away.You watched the Challenger blow upon the news again and again.I was there in my boots and eyeliner,waiting by the wall until a boyasked me to dance.
Rue by Kathryn Nurenberger
In this fiercely feminist ecopoetic collection, Kathryn Nuernberger reclaims love and resilience in an age of cruelty. As the speaker—an artist and intellectual—finds herself living through a rocky marriage in a conservative rural state, she maintains her sense of identity by studying the science and folklore of plants historically used for birth control. Her botanical portraits of common herbs like Queen Anne’s lace and pennyroyal are interwoven with lyric biographies of groundbreaking women ecologists whose stories have been left untold in textbooks.
With equal parts righteous fury and tender wisdom, Rue reassesses the past and recontextualizes the present to tell a story about breaking down, breaking through, and breaking into an honest, authentic expression of self.
Field Notes from the Flood Zone by Heather Sellers (forthcoming April 26, 2022)
Excerpt from "Drown"
The guava tree hides its hard, green fruits now—though no one eatsthem, not even the rats.The grand old mango leans so hard to the south—trying to escape latelife ankle-deep in salt water, storm-worn.Black mildew coats the clay barrel tiles on my roof and every leaf on thepotted lemon tree.Lacy trees sprout from the gutters. It’s like hair springing from the earsof a lover.At night in my bed, almost every night, I dream I’m underwater.Sometimes I breathe underwater. Sometimes I drown face down.
Diamonds by Camille Guthrie
Diamonds presents a woman in midlife on the edge. In hilarious and heartbreaking poems, Camille Guthrie writes about the trials and surprises of divorce, parenting, country life—and the difficulties and delights of being alone, looking at art, and falling in love. Witty resilience abounds in these irreverent poems about grief and desire—in which the poet meditates upon gender roles, history, pop culture, and academia. Guthrie subverts and teases traditional forms in an elegy about Sylvia Plath’s prom dress, a dating profile for Hieronymus Bosch, a sestina about beauty and power—with radical dramatic monologues in the voices of Madame du Barry, a Pict Woman, and more. Unlike Virgil, who refuses to guide this poet through her journey at midlife, Guthrie leads readers by the hand into a provoking, affecting journey of a break-up and a reconciliation with love.
Cyborg Detective by Jillian Weise
Excerpt from "Anticipatory Action"
If cyborg enunciations are the futureavant-garde, then what are real cyborgs?Do we have to be avant or can webe ourselves? Sometimes you allcome in and need us to assertour powerlessness.Of course, we trust you.We won't ask for inclusion.Do with us as you wish.Or the nurse comes in and says,"Oh no. You should have hadthat shot hours ago," as ifwe are responsible for time.Call the shots. Cheap shot,big shot, give it a shot, parting shot.Do we count yet? Not by a long—
Casual Conversation by Renia White (publishing April 19, 2022)
Renia White’s debut poetry collection strikes up a conversation, considering what’s being said, what isn’t, and where it all comes from. From her vantage point of Black womanhood, White probes the norms and mores of everyday interactions. In observations, insights, and snippets of speech, these poems look to the unspoken thoughts behind our banter, questioning the authority of not only the rule of law but also of our small talk itself—the concepts we have accepted and integrated without pause.
Casual Conversation imagines a new way of knowing, a way that encourages us to think through how we structure and stratify ourselves, inviting something strange and other to spill out. White challenges us to question whether there is anything casual about this life, even as she invites us to consider other logics and to think alongside each other. This book gives space to hold what we fear out of formality: consequence, embarrassment, anger. It plays, it tarries, it disrupts. It pulls apart what seems sound in an effort to see: what did we make here? How’s it going?
The Human Half by Deborah Brown
Excerpt from “Memory Box”
On one side, two abandoned horses in a field of snow.On another, the roar and crash of battle.On yet another, the pressure of the cat’s warmthasleep in the curve of my knees.My box is small and full of odd bits,like the Cornell box called Tilly Losch,the doll-like girl held by fine threadshigh above sharp mountain peaks.I am not in danger of falling.Some days my box reminds me of Plato’s cavewhere the prisoners see only the shadows of life,on other days of the blue cobblestones in Old San Juanwhere one of the homeless street dogs,a patchy brown mutt, chased something invisible to us.
Useful Junk by Erika Meitner (forthcoming April 5, 2022)
In her newest collection Useful Junk, Meitner explores memory, passion, and the various ways the body sees and is seen. These poems speak to us from parking lots, planes, dreamscapes, and the digital arena to affirm that we are made of every intimate moment we have ever had. Letter poems to a younger poet interspersed throughout the collection question desire itself and consider how digital technologies—sexting, Uber, selfies, Instagram—are reframing self-image and shifting the ratios of risk and reward in erotic encounters.
With dauntless vulnerability, Meitner taps into the metaphysical, the ekphrastic, the sensual, and the ordinary moments of life, remaining porous and open to the world, and always returning to the desires rooted deep within the self as a way forward in a damaged world. Boldly asserting that pleasure is a vital form of knowledge, Useful Junk reminds us that our selves are made real and beautiful by our embodied experiences, and that our desire is what keeps us alive.
Compiled by Amelia A., Spring 2022 intern