In these hybrid poems, Jessica Q. Stark explores her mother’s fraught immigration to the United States from Vietnam at the end of war through the lens of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale.
Told through personal, national, and cultural histories, Buffalo Girl is a feminist indictment of the violence used to define and control women's bodies. Interspersed throughout this hybrid work are a series of collaged photographs, featuring Stark’s mother’s black-and-white photography from Vietnam beautifully and hauntingly layered over various natural landscapes — lush tropical plants, dense forests, pockets of wildflowers. Several illustrations from old Red Riding Hood children’s books can also be found embedded into these pieces. Juxtaposing the moral implications of Little Red Riding Hood with her mother's photography, Stark creates an image-text conversation that attends to the wolves lurking in the forests of our everyday lives.
Opening the whispered frames around sexuality and sex work, immersed in the unflattering symptoms of survival, Buffalo Girl burgeons with matrilineal love and corporeal rage while censuring the white gaze and the violence enacted through the English language. Here is an inversion of diasporic victimhood. Here is an unwavering attention to the burdens suffered by the women of this world. Here is a reimagination, a reclamation, a way out of the woods.
Excerpt from "Catalogue of Random Acts of Violence"Where are you from?
Praise for Savage Pageant
“To ‘write history with lightning’ or ‘dine with fine ghosts’ at the edge of a wood requires a map, because how else will you get there/do that? In Jessica Stark’s Savage Pageant, this map is an ‘undulation,’ a ‘fold,’ something lightly sketched then traced on “something blackened, worn-out, and organized.’ Stark’s brilliant move in this powerful new work is to problematize the paper itself: the surfaces that receive the many marks that a poet, an inhabitant, an animal, an archivist or an audience-member might make. I loved, most of all, the ‘strange beasts’ that are drawn and written with such lavish and specific curiosity. There was a consistent feeling of delight and surprise as I moved through the social and mythological world of blood, verbs, and ‘stories better left unsaid’ that Stark makes and un-makes. What a brilliant writer. What a lovely and strange book.”
— Bhanu Kapil
“Jessica Q. Stark’s new book Savage Pageant is a book like no other. No where else can a reader find themselves so perfectly positioned among ‘sunsank and missing persons’ or among ‘misinformation and contaminated waters.’ Part poetry book, part collection of private, personal, and public histories, part summons, part rune, this book takes you head first into the other world, where all you can do is swim past your own hurts and traumas into the sunshine hole of the unreal. This book is about being human, and painfully so. It’s a book we must remember as we begin to forget ourselves. Maybe that’s this time we are in right now and maybe it is all of time. I’ll risk it all to say that we need this book for all of time, to take with us as a guide from here until the everlasting. ‘We are only here for a / short time’ the book says to us. And because it’s true, we listen.”
“The body of poetry needs a new script and, sassy, inventive poetess and scholar, Jessica Q. Stark , is more than happy to savagely oblige and provide. Here is her beast, her junglehatch made of tiger’s saline, a genealogical bite or two. Her poetry is a box office disgorgement, where heroes and foes tried to not eat each other alive in between the pages. ‘We know memory, / like a trapped lion, must snack on / dry sandwiches to survive.’ She will lure you in, take you prisoner at the intersection between her candid prose and her ferociously minimal, comic drawings that are in themselves, poetic in their lion-like poise. At her height of multi-tasking, birthing simultaneously son and book, she holds you captive with her carnival performance of ingenious gestures, where language and motherhood play informal games of anatomic brilliance and take you through her sanitary mayhem of pandemoniac beauty and birth. There will be an intermission of pregnancy. An interlude of cautionary tales on mauling for mothers. Unlike Leo at MGM, who would only roar and maul, when the stage light is turned on, Stark’s Savage Pageant is an exceptional animal as it has the unseeable ability to claw, scratch your literary itch, lacerate your imagination, and tear you to pieces both in the dark and in the light.”
—Vi Khi Nao
Publication Date: 04/18/23