In this compelling collection, Trista Mateer, recipient of the Goodreads Choice Award for Poetry in 2015 and finalist in 2019, offers a retrospective of her poetry that appeared online and in print between 2013 and 2023.
This is a book of queer poetry and pride that examines the struggles of the speaker’s romantic relationships. The author laments on the back cover: “I’m so sick of reducing lovers to lessons: How to let go. How to Stay. How to ask for what the heart wants.”
Her poems inside parse those lessons in confessional detail, offering slice-of-life glimpses at sensual pleasure, obsession, the terrible loneliness of loss, the longing for climactic love: (“Love that crashes like potted plants/ from fifth-story windows”), and more.
At its best, the work skillfully harvests the senses, as in “Peaches”: ”You’ve ruined peaches for me.// I can’t eat one without thinking of your hands/ dipping into my soft flesh, mouth dripping,/ teeth skimming across skin, tongue lapping at the excess:// greedy, greedy, greedy.”
It also offers vivid imagery, such as this line from a breakup poem: “I feel most like myself/ when I’m washing blood off my hands/ in the shower.” Or this: “It is June and I am knocking down my heart/ like a wasp’s nest on the front porch,/ taking stock of everything that spills out of it…” Blackout erasure- and strikethrough-poems add transparency into the poet’s process.
Not all of the poems are equally accomplished. Sometimes the language could work harder, rather than appearing as prose simply broken into lines (“Who said/ it had to hurt this much/ to make good art?”), and occasionally cleverness rings trivial (“I have a postcard mouth./ All it ever says is:/ Wish you were here.”). Regardless, the speaker’s rawness and authenticity resonate throughout, creating an often-powerful reading experience.
Showcasing a youthful voice, the collection will appeal to readers seeking affirmation of their own identities or expansion of their understanding of the individuality of love.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.