Review of Mannish Tongues
jayy dodd's full-length poetry book, Mannish Tongues (Platypus Press, 2017), undoes the contradiction of violence and soft.
To get a feel for the book, check out what jayy said they were doing while writing Mannish Tongues in a recent installment of their newsletter, "saythat!":
"A blxk question mark from los angeles," dodd's book is a sacred text for those in the church of black and queer. Divided into six sections (CONFESSIONS, PRAYERS, INTERROGATIONS, TESTIMONIES, MYTHS, EULOGIES), dodd examines the world's danger and the seemingly impossible but necessary act of finding and creating solace in any place and any way you can.
In church, you come in search of answers and, in this book, dodd preaches—giving you answers, yes, and yet still more. They give you a way to name, hold, and carry survival. They give you the key to opening the door to more than survival as black, as queer: they give you a chance to free.
With form that doesn't let up, you don't know how they will deliver the next message, and yet you sit on the edge of your pew, excited for the deliverance about to come, ready to jump up and catch the holy they're about to throw to you. dodd considers and reckons with the resurrection, the audacity to continue creating even when death is guaranteed. We need their words now more than ever.
Some favorite lines from each section:
The only deception / I am unable to master: / the vanishing act.
Prayers ("Speak Louder")
if afterlife is making it home safely, are we not / immaculate enough?
Interrogations ("Ars Poetica")
every poem is a death
Testimonies ("A Returning")
[...] How is knowing end times / as regular occurrence gonna get kinfolk free?
Myths ("Ten Sons")
She say he been real his whole life, / that when she finally catch up with God, all her sons gon' be alright.
Eulogies ("A Eulogy For Myself, The Night after Pepper Labeija")
Ends on: / "He only ever wanted to be real / to be whole & full for all to eat."
jayy dodd is a blxk question mark from los angeles, california– now based on the internet. they are a professional writer & literary editor. their work has appeared / will appear in Broadly, The Establishment, Assaracus, Winter Tangerine, Guernica, & Nashville Review among others. they're the author of [sugar in the tank] (Pizza Pi Press 2016) & Mannish Tongues (Platypus Press 2017). their collection The Black Condition ft. Narcissus is forthcoming on Siren Song / CCM Press. they are a Pushcart Prize nominee, co-editor of Bettering American Poetry & a 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow. their work has been featured in Teen Vogue & Entropy. find them talking trash online or taking a selfie.
to hire jayy for editing, find out more here.
to hire jayy for graphic design, find out more here.
click here for a full CV / RESUMÉ.
about the author
ALEXIS SMITHERS (LEX LEE) is a queer black creator based on the East Coast. Featured in wusgood.black, Glass: Poetry, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Freezeray Poetry among others, they volunteered for Self Care After Rape and currently work for 365daysoflesbians, Winter Tangerine Review, and Voicemail Poems. They are a 2015 Pink Door Fellow and 2016 LAMBDA Literary Young Adult Fiction Fellow. They tweet at DangerLove12 and you can find more of their work at youhavethewritetoremember.me.