The poetry and prose in Ivy Johnson’s Born Again (The Operating System, 2018) beautifully dives into the ecstatic expression of religious experience. With its confessional style, this collection gives power to the female voice, rending open that which would be hidden behind closed doors. The work blends sensuality and spirituality, merging the grounded reality of existing a physical body in the world with a sense of worship, prayer, and spell casting.
“I submerge my hands in ink and smear them across the wall
I cover my body in rich purple paint and rub against white paper
I place a sticker of the Virgin Mary on my bedroom window next to the fire escape
She hurts with the glow of blue frost
I race down the stairs to make snow angels in the dog-piss
Fill the silhouette of my body with marigolds”
I’m still in the process of figuring out how to be a good interview podcast host, how to shuck off my own nervousness and dig up confidence enough to feel strong in these interviews. But whatever limitations I believe I have at this moment, they are more than surpassed by the intelligence and insight of my guests so far.
My first podcast interview at New Books in Poetry is live! I had a lovely conversation with Emily Jungmin Yoon regarding her first full-length collection, A Cruelty Special to Our Species (Ecco Books, 2018), which examines forms of violence against women. At its core these poems delve into the lives of Korean comfort women of the 1930s and 40s, reflecting on not only the history of sexual slavery, but also considering its ongoing impact. Her poems beautifully lift the voices of these women, helping to make them heard and remembered — while also providing insight into current events, environmentalism, and her own personal experiences as a woman in the world.
I loved this collection of poetry, which was so moving in how it addressed intense subject matters. Her words are lyrical, vivid, and enriched with a playful examination of language, the way mean slips depending on perspective and how language can be a powerful tool. These poems help to give voice to women whose stories are not commonly told. It’s beautifully done.
The podcast is part of the New Books Network, which reaches about 30,000 people a day and listeners download over a million episodes a month. The New Books in Poetry podcast itself has been around since 2011 and has featured a variety of poets from different backgrounds. The podcast has been on a bit of a hiatus. Now, we’re excited to be starting it up again.
Athena has already completed her first episode, in which she speaks with Vernon Keeve III about his book Southern Migrant Mixtape (Nomadic Press, 2018). Of his work, she states:
Memoir comes in many forms, be it poetry or prose. Keeve’s work is a bridge between both worlds. In a manner that is simultaneously universal and intimate, his book is an unflinching view at what it is to be black, queer, disenfranchised, jubilant, and resilient. Via his deft pen, Keeve turns his focus on how his own personal history is deeply connected to, and is bolstered by, the black experience in society.
It is via this collection, Keeve hopes to create a legacy for the story of his family, his culture, and the future. As he writes in “The decomposition of Emmett,”
There is a dis- ease in the land.
This collection dissects the diss, the unease, and the sickness of American generations as a means of healing and reconciliation.