VIRGIN, BY ANALICIA SOTELO
Analicia Sotelo’s stunning first full-length collection Virgin, selected by Ross Gay as the winner of the Jake Adam York prize, explores the layered and intersecting roles of Sotelo's Latinx speaker: daughter, lover, and writer. Sotelo’s book is situated in a hybrid space of autobiographical retelling, retold with ample license and penchant for art. There are no pretenses here or self-idealization when the speaker announces: “We’re all performing our bruises,” and the reader digs deeper for her directness. The speaker works towards self-realization and self-preservation from a micro and macro level, not only interested in the personal, the familial, but also issues of colonization and assimilation: “Out here, where the sand is so white, / so Westernized, how could I not / sink into it / & burn with questions / like what am I doing here”? Sotelo’s speaker is all at once chatty, pulling the reader close: “A man walks into my kitchen in athletic shorts. / That’s the joke—a man, in my kitchen,” and staggeringly mythic: “Now I have three heads: one / for speech, one for sex, // and one for second-guessing” and it is this reeling dance with her reader that allows Sotelo’s collection to move between low and highbrow subjects, to include poems about barbeques, Giorgio de Chirico, and Greek mythology and never lose speed. Without exception, Virgin is a must-read—and a delightfully gripping way to start poetry in 2018.
—Review by Madeline Vardell