October 12, 2019

#BookReview: Splinters Are Children of Wood by Leia Penina Wilson

Synopsis: The wildly unrestrained poems in Splinters Are Children of Wood, Leia Penina Wilson's second collection and winner of the Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, pose an increasingly desperate question about what it means to be a girl, the ways girls are shaped by the world, as well as the role myth plays in this coming of age quest. Wilson, an afakasi Samoan poet, divides the book into three sections, linking the poems in each section by titles. In this way the poems act as a continuous song, an ode, or a lament revivifying a narrative that refuses to adopt a storyline.

Samoan myths and Western stories punctuate this volume in a search to reconcile identity and education. The lyrical declaration is at once an admiration of love and self-loathing. She kills herself. Resurrects herself. Kills herself again. She is also killed by the world. Resurrected. Killed again. These poems map displacement, discontent, and an increasing suspicion of the world itself, or the ways people learn the world. Drawing on the work of Bhanu Kapil, Anne Waldman, Alice Notley, and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Wilson's poems reveal familiarity and strangeness, invocation and accusation. Both ritual and ruination, the poems return again and again to desire, myth, the sacred, and body

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About the Author: Leia Penina Wilson is an afakasi Samoan poet hailing from the Midwest. Her work has appeared in Dream Pop PressSplit LipBirdfeastBombay GinPowder Keg, and OmniVerse. She is the author of i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown), winner of the 2012 To the Lighthouse Poetry Prize.

Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
My Review: The first thing I fell in love with was the title.  The cover came second and the poems inside came third.  This was one amazing and breathtaking collection of poems that blend together in violence and a touch of feminism.  I loved all of the words in this title can really want to see if this author has anything else out there.  There were a few parts where the words felt scattered and those were a little hard to get through but overall this was a frighting gorgeous tale. 

"In this stark and arresting book-length sequence, Wilson asks questions of violence, victimization, and complicity . . . with its blend of spare but powerful lines, many readers will find this an inspired effort to rally disempowered voices." (Publishers Weekly)

"Unbecoming is the sister wife of becoming. In Leia Penina Wilson’s Splinters are Children of Wood, the things of the world give themselves over to partiality to find a place to bear and be. As the splinter is the offspring byproduct of the wood, so Wilson’s poems put forward an ongoing, generative womanhood that is as joyous as it is terrified and angry. I’m gratified by the ultimate welcome I hear in this lovely book, and by Leia Wilson’s unwillingness to accept anything but her whole experience." (Claudia Keelan, author of We Step into the Sea: New and Selected Poems)

"Leia Penina Wilson has carved an epic, avant-garde, feminist spell. She calls forth the wildness of language in order to dispel the violence against––and to evoke the power of––'gurls' and women. Within the mythos of this book, we encounter 'guardian beasts,' the Samoan female warrior Nafanua, scarred/sacred bodies, a 'sharpsharp' tongue, golden cunt, and ancestral skulls. Read these poems aloud to hear its haunting 'bloodsong' emblossom the wounds of this splintered world." (Craig Santos Perez)

"Like the sea, this book is feral, choral, and female. The speaker bares fang and claw to dig to the source of all violences but finds there is no bottom to the violences she must unearth; drawing on her own capacity for newness as well as the ingenuity of her grandmothers, she denatures and remakes these violences, configuring shield and spear, shrapnel-epic and battle-engine. If this poetry is cannibalistic and blood-drenched, it is the trans-hemispheric, trans-historical patriarchy that it consumes with cosmic joy, growing larger and stronger as it does so. 'Vengeance! come!' she sings in self-delight. 'A poem / pigeon eaten out by rat saved you.'" (Joyelle McSweeney, author of The Necropastoral)

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