Emily Skaja’s Brute has won this year’s Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets. It’s a powerful book, dealing with pain and abuse using language of startling originality. Skaja has had to create new uses for language to tell such a story., similar to the Spanish Surrealists dealing with the trauma of the Spanish Civil War. And like much of their work, the result pushes past any sentimentality and victimhood. Buy here.
From “Girl Saints”
O LORD, when the Angel said Listen / when the Angel said Do not fall to the earth for anyone // we were already stained in glass. // A circle of black flies biting / our arrival. Scales scraped off a fish. // Starved girls folded at a line in Leviticus. // This is how it happened: one day we looked outside / & the bloated bodies of frogs were fucking up the yard.
From “Dear Ruth”
. . . Help me understand, help me reverse / the pilgrims’ stories. Make them rise up out of their bone crypts // doubled with purpose—bloodied, believing—& send them to war / for their girl queens. War for their daughters hallelujah // as it wasn’t in the beginning isn’t now & never shall be / world without end. Oh but God my God Amen.