TENDER: Selected Poems
Publisher: Talonbooks (2020)
Within the contours of TENDER lie field notes from a life lived across multiple affinities, kinship, and desires. Equally visual and textual, TENDER is a beautifully complex collection of experiences and reflections spanning thirty years of curious inquiry into our shared human-animal condition. Laiwan's book traverses diverse terrains—the body, land, language. It is rooted in her courageous and uncompromising history of activism and in experiences of building community across and beyond difference. TENDER offers a radical and decolonizing cleansing of all that oppresses and alienates. The words and images of this collection reveal the heroic struggles of gendered, raced, and sexual differences from a place of incredible tenderness and vulnerability. Laiwan’s words imprint in us the need to breathe our animal skins back to life after the scarring of dehumanized, fearful states of abandonment and betrayal. Read as a retrospective and as a continued call for a passionate caring for one another, TENDER offers us freedom in the face of limitation: a working at setting free. Each section of the book captures a moment in time and feeling. Haunting, political, and defiantly sexy, Laiwan’s voice is a guiding force. Ghostly images are choreographed to leave us alerted to longing and hope, absence and presence. It is as if the entire collection were a garden at different stages of growth, with the inevitable decay and renewal that each season brings. In Laiwan’s imaginings readers retreat and renew our courage to speak—and breathe—anew.