Muse Found in a Colonized Body
Author: Yesenia Montilla
Publisher: Four Way Books (2022)
In the book's eponymous poem, Yesenia Montilla writes, “How do you not love yourself when you / constantly survive your undoing just by being precious?" Muse Found in a Colonized Body answers this rhetorical question by populating itself with poems that range far and wide in content—observing pop culture, interrogating history, resisting contemporary injustice—but that share the spinal cord of unflinching love. As Rachel Eliza Griffiths notes, Montilla’s “powers orbit and intuit the lives of Philando Castile, Captain America, Christian Cooper, Karl Marx, Ahmaud Arbery, Eartha Kitt, and many more while stitching our wounded identities, memories, and histories in defiant poems of revision and joyous reclamation.” The vertebral odes of this collection at turns uplift desire, affirm life, celebrate protest, and condemn the violent greed of imperial usurpation that has produced the U.S. as we know it. Both in its criticism and its admiration, Muse Found in a Colonized Body calls upon its readers to rise to the occasion of these lyrics’ profound care.
“Montilla writes: ‘having lost everything she touched / her own body & became . . .’ So here is a catalog of touches and the legacies of touches. Here is a trace of the poem inside the breath inside the fleeting, unfixable now. Here is a trace of the poet's will to testify and dream simultaneously. And Montilla is a poet of such beautiful imagination and vitality, that even as she writes ruin her lines carry the charge of indomitable desire. Her metaphors are, to me, resuscitations. An erotic, present, dreaming power coursing through."
"Muse Found in a Colonized Body flings off rusted shackles of the tongue and flesh in order to taste new languages, new bodies, and new freedoms. Yesenia Montilla is a true poet whose heart burns beyond silence, oppression, and death. In poems that challenge our flawed perceptions of joy, desire, fear, violence, and courage, Montilla observes 'this is how we muzzle the world'—or 'and we still haven’t learned to live / as stars.' Her powers orbit and intuit the lives of Philando Castile, Captain America, Christian Cooper, Karl Marx, Ahmaud Arbery, Eartha Kitt, and many more while stitching our wounded identities, memories, and histories in defiant poems of revision and joyous reclamation. Montilla gathers and revives a celestial body that is always intimate and humanized, inspired in its rich calling. May the voice and gorgeous fires of Yesenia Montilla stay with us for years to come.”
–Rachel Eliza Griffiths