Indie Blu(e)’s Smitten should be your newest gift of poetry
Before I begin to review Smitten, a book that lays bare and re-frames (in a very personal manner) the love that women have for women, I must be equally open. As I formed my thoughts, I realized that I was (and am) extremely nervous about how to respond to these poems from my own heterosexual, cis female lens. I felt this because I am a woman of color, one who feels the simmering heat of frustration when those who cannot ever know my experience want to take a stab at relating to it. What I can say is the following: While Smitten is a book about women who love women (from every-which perspective), of course, it is about love. And I can relate to love. I can understand first love, last love, forbidden love, unrequited love, the love of someone lost, the love of someone found. The love of someone who saves.
But in truth, even as a woman of color married to a white man, I have not experienced love that is criticized or fetishized by outsiders, that is closeted by well (and not-so-well) meaning family. I will never feel the excruciating pain of those who are beat down because of whom or how they love. So, as I opened up my advance copy of Smitten, it was with delicate hands, an open and reverent heart—because that is how I wish my own poetry to be read.
Over a hundred poems about women, by women. Can I say how exhilarating it is to have read so many at one go? I happily recognized quite a few of the poets—hailing from an independent poetry network often curated by Indie Blu(e) Publishing: Tara Caribou, Candice Louisa Daquin, Christine E. Ray, Kindra M. Austin and Georgia Park, to name a few. But there was a mélange of poets new to me, whose unique voices were employed in a variety of styles from musical to prose to concrete poetry. Among my favorites were Paula Jellis’ “I want a woman with a big bouffant,” Katherine DeGilio’s “Sunburned Shoulders,” Nick Kay’s “The Value of a Rusty Coin,” Jessica Jacobs’ “Out of the Windfields,” and Susan M. Conway’s “Letters to my Love.”
Would that I could list every single poem (my list is long), as they touched my sensibilities in different ways. Some entreat us to dance to an inaudible tune; others confide to us the secrets of nerve-wracked first kisses; they relate the early-in-the-morning and late-at-night mundanities of love. But we are also invited to the troubled history of these loves in poems such as “Love is Our Theory” (Sean Heather K. McGraw), “Letter from Lock Up to the NYPD, June 1969, Christopher Street” (Melissa Fadul) and “You Don’t Deserve to Read About My Life” (Georgia Park). These such poems are the ones that will be hardest to bear, but among the most important to read.
This is a book that should be gifted. In spite of its implied audience, Smitten is not just for women who adore women. It is for those whose hearts flutter and skin goosebumps at romance, who know the flight of butterflies in their stomachs and who long for the feeling of home in another’s heart.
Mariah Voutilainen writes poetry and prose about all manner of things at www.reimaginingthemundane.wordpress.com.