Dear Ashley Inguanta,
I have tried to write poems about being gay. I have tried to write poems that make me feel more real, like I could really reach out and touch things the same way that someone completely comfortable with their sexuality could. Of course, words can’t do this for me, but, as a poet, replicating experience with words is the only way I know how to create. There always seems to be some distance between me and my own experience, unreachable by my own words. Your book BOMB, in its rising out of the ashes, a new creation story, has offered peace that no words had offered before.
Reading your book deconstructs the form of love poetry created for us by great love poets of old and explores love between women that is so often dismissed as pornographic. As a queer writer, this distinction has been a weighty one to breach. What is the distance between love and identity? And how does one make a cry in that direction? Your book abolishes this distance, love is love and grief is grief. Gender makes no difference. Lines are blurred not only between love and grief, man and woman, but between seeing and being, and dreaming and seeing.
The longing in this book propels the reader forward into the loss and anguish of love, alongside the stories that push the speaker’s life onward: $12 rose, creation stories, Amelia Earhart, burials, baseball games, and the bomb. The author’s longing presents itself in repetition of themes and images. Over and over again we hear about this “her” and poems are titled “dedications” to many different people, and we are moved back to “the woman I will marry”. This repetition represents the never-ending nature of the desire that the speaker feels. It also raises questions about the future and whether or not the feeling of losing love will ever go away. We reach the lengths of mundane and most exquisite existence in this book, not just lesbian experience, but human. It’s a prayer. The language feels like it’s coming from somewhere deep inside you that knows of something deeper inside of readers. It offered a reaffirmation of my own queer humanity in many ways, by making no distinction between being queer and being human.
Prose entwines itself with poetry as you experiment with line breaks and form from poem to poem. The freedom of the form shows itself in prose pieces running into traditional stanzas running into micro poetry that is filled with blank space. All of these forms create an individual experience that somehow feels as though it can be applied to all our lives. “I imagine you running, wet concrete / from rain.” You cast the uncertainty of love into the light of angels who may or may not do what we expect them to do. Renaming the pieces inside of us that we want to know best through surprising images, syntax curling in on itself, and form that breaks our expectation of love in half. This book is a bomb to what we know about love in so many ways. But most profoundly it is a bomb to the heteronormative love that we are used to seeing, twisting it out of its shell that has been passed down from generations of poets.
You paint the experience of grief as a “body flatten[ed] into horizon”, creating the feeling into something tangible. And from this “bomb” of destruction comes a reverse evolution of grief. Things must start growing again from the rubble eventually. An “animal/becomes flower”. Two things: equally beautiful, equally wild, the world remaking itself after such a loss. Offering peace for the reader and speaker alike.
This book has offered words to my experience. Offered some sort of description to being queer that isn’t a fight for humanity, but a description of it. Even better that this book is not about being gay or loving a woman. It is about being a person. Triumphantly so. It embodies humanity in a way that is intoxicatingly reachable to the reader.
I left my first reading of the book wanting to cry and kiss. Thank you.