Carefully balancing lyric poem conventions with a bold delineation of human emotion, Jennifer Soong plays with different aesthetic forms in her most recently released collection, Suede Mantis / Soft Rage. Soong explores a variety of poetic compositions–it is a project of the mind, a submittance to raw emotions in exchange for a curious, but risqué, visual sorting of thoughts.
As with any book review, I know I have an obligation to remain professional in the following paragraphs. But Juniper Fitzgerald forces me to be personal in every letter that bleeds through the choreographed motion of my fingertips on this keyboard. I almost want to conduct this as an open letter to Juniper, a “thank you” note that wouldn’t be nearly as impactful as I hope it could be. But that wouldn’t be fair to Fitzgerald or her story, or to the stories of Jean, and Cassandra, and her Grandma, and Theresa, and Diana, and Marita, and Anita, and Dakota, and Andi, and Jennifer.
Trigger Warnings: Sexual abuse/assault, sexism, sexual violence, consensual yet gore sexual descriptions.
It’s not every day that people run to the Northwoods, particularly in the Wisconsin region, for safety and stability. Yet it proves itself to be the perfect backdrop for Jill Stukenberg’s News of the Air. In this novel, Stukenberg paints the picture of a near future with repeated violent protests flooding the cities and wildfires rampaging the rest. In what starts off with a similar feel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Stukenberg details the journey of a young family, especially the mother, sacrificing the pleasures of city life for a new, safer life in the woods where her daughter can stretch her legs and peace can envelop them all. However, as life goes on, the daunting realization creeps up that trouble is everywhere and that running away from your problems often creates new ones, maybe even ones that you can’t run from anymore.
Katya Zinn’s first published full-length collection of stories, essays, and poems, titled Manic Depressive Pixie Dream Girl, is an extreme exercise in examining the damage done to women by capitalism, social constructs, neurodivergence, and the patriarchy—to name a few.
Zinn is hardly the first woman to notice that gender—and the stereotypes it forces people to contend with—can have a tragic impact on females. Women, after all, are statistically far more likely to be sexually assaulted, have undiagnosed mental illnesses, and be victims of intimate partner violence. Zinn’s collection, which is broken into multiple parts, touches on all of these circumstances.
From page one, author Julian Mithra demonstrates a mastery over various literary formats: poems, short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, textbook excerpts, and more. Mithra uses each form a number of times, using and subverting conventions to draw the reader deeper into the fictional town of Goldened, Colorado. The result is a town, complete with people and history, that comes to life with each new page and imagined document, making you feel like you’re unearthing a lost shard of history. Giving voice to voiceless rocks, moles, and other dwellers of the dirt, Unearthingly had me digging deeper and deeper with each imaginary document.