There are certain things I look for when browsing NetGalley. First and foremost, I look for books I want to read. I mostly request horror and poetry because those are two genres that I am always in the mood to read. And I do judge books by their covers. Authors should not underestimate the value of great cover art. Something that I don’t necessarily look for but always catches my attention is Latino authors, particularly if they write about border life and bicultural life experience because that is something to which I can relate. And she grew up in my neck of the woods. Naturally I requested Emily Perez’s Iowa Poetry Prize winning book, What Flies Want.
Perez tackles a lot of familiar issues in her way, but it’s not hitting the mark. Perhaps I am desensitized to some of those shared experiences. The formatting made it somewhat difficult to read. Every poem is stylistically different. Some read like rants, others like run-on sentences that leave me breathless. The whole collection seems disjointed.
But there are some that stand out, like How I Learned to Be a Girl. It’s not even really the poem that stands out, it’s the feelings that it evokes. I think of the time I told an ex that he frightened me. He laughed at me, declaring that it couldn’t possibly be true, but he backed off. We learn to tiptoe around the landmines.
If the beast is unpredictable you must traverseHow I Learned to Be a Girl
in postures of submission. Easier to crawl
with your face down toward the earth, nape
exposed, expecting to be struck, which may draw
cold contempt, at best compassion. Fragility may
inspire a desire to protect. I learned young to dance
those careful steps around the unexploded mines
where ground was not yet gutted.
Then there are poems like Yes, All Women which expresses sentiments of which most women are familiar. The reader knows what it’s about despite the vagueness of the words. Maybe that’s intentional. It’s that thing we all understand but haven’t really talked openly about until recently. #MeToo, anyone?
My favorite is probably Correccion/Correction. I found I could relate to this one more than any others in the book. My mother is German and my father is Mexican American. They also chose names for us that sound good in multiple languages, though fortunately they did not decide to call us by middle names. I can’t imagine my life as Irene! I feel like I have probably spent more of my life in the RGV though, so while my experience does not match the author’s, I do understand what she was saying.
⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars for me. It’s certainly not bad, but I’m not seeing the groundbreaking revelations that other reviews claim are there. This is the type of poetry that makes me feel like maybe my reading comprehension skills aren’t quite as sharp as I think they are.
Big thanks to Emily Perez, University Of Iowa Press, and NetGalley for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This book wasn’t for me, but it might be for you! Check it out. You can buy What Flies Want, by Emily Perez on Amazon and other major booksellers.