Book Review: BODYMAP by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha

Originally posted in PRISM: UF Honors Magazine on 9/2/15

“We use each other’s raw bodies to remind ourselves how to pray.”

This quote from writer Amber Dawn is the preface to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s newest collection of poetry, BodyMap.

The quotation does more than print itself over the first blank page; it sets the tone of the whole book.

BodyMap is raw, bold, and expressive. It comes at you hard, it doesn’t wait for you to catch up. It’s the most exhilarating, engaging read I’ve had in a long time.

Last semester, I reviewed Piepzna-Samarasinha’s earlier collection of poetry, Love Cake. Would I say that BodyMap is better, right off the bat?

I’m not sure that’s my place. Writing poetry is an intensely personal experience, especially the kind that Piepzna-Samarasinha writes, which discusses being a disabled, queer, femme of color.

As someone not from the author’s background, I can’t begin to truly understand the many different trials that are depicted in both books. As someone who doesn’t possess a degree in analyzing poetry, or any degree as of yet, I’m not equipped to compare the two collections in merit.

However, I don’t believe that’s what a book review is for. A book review, I believe, is about what someone gleans from a book, the experience of reading. It’s about the taste under your tongue after you put it down, and it’s about whether or not you could put it down at all. That, my friends, is something I can tell you all about.

Piepzna-Samarasinha describes BodyMap as a “queer disabled femme-of-color love song…mapping the hard and vulnerable terrains fo queer desire, survivor hood, transformative love, sick and disabled queer genius and all the homes we claim and deserve.”

It’s only recently, as far as I can tell, that queer love poetry, poetry written by disabled individuals and poetry venturing through cracks in societies’ gates silencing discussion of past traumatic experiences has really gained momentum in circles outside of their immediate community.

Much of the poetry in Piepzna-Samarasinha’s book is performance based; it can be read aloud as that popular form of self-expression, spoken-word poetry. However, it’s not required to see Piepzna-Samarasinha’s work in person to appreciate its depth, harshness and visceral immediacy…

Click here to read the rest of my review at PRISM

Click here for more information about Piepzna-Samarasinha and their work

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