Book Review: Virgin by Analicia Sotelo

vTitle: Virgin
Author: Analicia Sotelo
Published: 2018
Genre: P
Format: Paperback
Pages: 95
Source: Library
Date Read: April 11, 2018
Grade: C+
Synopsis: Selected by Ross Gay as winner of the inaugural Jake Adam York Prize, Analicia Sotelo’s debut collection of poems is a vivid portrait of the artist as a young woman.

In Virgin, Sotelo walks the line between autobiography and myth-making, offering up identities like dishes at a feast. These poems devour and complicate tropes of femininity–of naiveté, of careless abandon–before sharply exploring the intelligence and fortitude of women, how “far & wide, / how dark & deep / this frigid female mind can go.” At every step, Sotelo’s poems seduce with history, folklore, and sensory detail–grilled meat, golden habaneros, and burnt sugar–before delivering clear-eyed and eviscerating insights into power, deceit, relationships, and ourselves.

Blistering and gorgeous, Virgin is an audacious act of imaginative self-mythology from one of our most promising young poets.

Review: It’s always hard for me to review or rate poetry. It’s easy if I either love it or hate it, but for me this collection falls somewhere in the middle, although I did love a few lines. I think I couldn’t relate to many of the poems, which isn’t a fault of Sotelo’s or mine–it just happens sometimes in poetry and literature. And that’s okay.

Favorite Poems and Lines:

  • “Summer Barbecue with Two Men” (7-8)
    • So / many people are tender from the right angle. (33-34)
  • “Private Property” (20)
    • In this minor emergency of the self, / we drink to become confused, / to swim in the dark like idiot fish. (1-3)
    • We’re all performing our bruises. (8)
  • “I’m Trying to Write a Poem about a Virgin and It’s Awful” (23)
    • Her ability to turn her gaze on small / versions of herself seemed important. (5-6)
  • “Trauma with Second Chance at Humiliation” (33-38)
    • I’ll turn you // into something else, a footnote / of a person. (37-39)
    • To admit I love you would be to admit // I love ideas more than men, / myself even less than ideas. (45-47)
    • What you don’t say is an iris / locked in a container. // What I don’t say is an iris / burning wildly in a pool of water. // I want you to take yours out. / Show it to me, please. // See how an object can change / when a new person wants it. (51-58)
    • One side of me says, Destroy. / The other, Be gentle. (60-61)
    • These ashen petals: the expectation / that you’ll understand intuitively // what has taken me years to describe. (65-67)
    • It does matter. / I don’t have to tell you why. (79-80)
  • “Ariadne Discusses Theseus in Relation to the Minotaur” (57)
    • When a man tells you he’s a monster, / believe him. // When a man says / you will get hurt, // leave. (1-5)
  • “Separation Anxiety” (75-76)
    • You never know what a person is like // beneath his skin, what he’ll do / with what’s available. (15-17)

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