Bullets and Butterflies, groundbreaking queer slam poetry collection from Suspect Thoughts Press will be in bookshops everywhere next week! Edited by Emanuel Xavier, it features the work of Shailja Patel, Horehound Stillpoint, Celena Glenn, Regie Cabico, Shane Luitjens, Alix Olson, Maurice Jamal, Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, Emanuel Xavier, Daphne Gottlieb, Marty McConnell, Travis Montez and Stacey Ann Chin. You NEED this book – on your coffee table, by your bedside, and most definitely in your backpack, because you'll want to keep pulling it out to share the poems. Buy it at http://www.suspectthoughts.com/press.htm
April 2005: EARLY REVIEWS FOR BULLETS AND BUTTERFLIES
"Rarely is the sport of literary criticism more popular than when spoken word is being bashed. With staccato skill and fierceness, however, the poets of Emanuel Xavier's anthology handily disarm the critics. Riffing on everything from the war in Iraq to oral sex (sometimes at once), Regie Cabico, Horehound Stillpoint, Travis Montez and others serve poems that speak for themselves- no stage required."
-GENRE (March 2005)
Excerpts a longer essay by Alexander Renault, Chiron Rising
“Sometimes words assault the audience from the stage like bullets, wounding quick and deeply. Sometimes poems leave lips like butterflies, beautifully decorating the room with hope.” Emanuel Xavier
Bullet & Butterflies was not what I expected. I thought this new anthology of slam poetry would be entertaining and mildly titillating. Xavier, an outstanding poet and gifted orator with a personal history as powerful as his poetry, has lined up an army of comrades led by some of the most uninhibited and talented poets of his generation. I not only read straight through the 200-page collection in one sitting, but experienced a spectrum of emotions ranging from dysphoria to profound pride at simply being a member of the modern GLBT community.
Slam poetry is a form of rage against the despair we feel about our lives, this out-of-control circus run by a ringleader who mispronounces the most basic words in the English language, making us wonder if he should actually be wearing a clown suit instead of a top hat. In either case our current president still holds the whip and these poets know it.
Shailja Patel is one of the best poets of her generation. Born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, this third-generation East African Indian understands the power of racism and crushing oppression. Fortunately, from the time she wandered the playground she also understood the power of words (to borrow from Alice Walker, Patel has seemingly always possessed that secret of joy, “resistance”).
She articulates racial hatred and then dances ethereal: “Words that atomized two hundred thousand Iraqis:/ Didja see how we kicked some major ass in the Gulf?/ Lit up Baghdad like the fourth a‘July! / Whupped those sand-niggers into a parking lot!/ The children in my dreams speak in Gujurati/ bright as butter/ succulent cherries/ sounds I can paint on the air with my breath/ dance through like a Sufi mystic/ words I can weep and howl and devour/ words I can kiss and taste and dream/ this tongue/ I take/ back.”
Patel also creates beautiful references to the power of making love, even from a political angle: “it’s true we really do/ change the world/ by fucking yes/ the revolution/ is our naked bodies . . . . let it give/ pat robertson/ dr. laura/ screaming slavering/ wet dream nightmares”.
An incident where a U.S. soldier killed a Korean barmaid in 2001, a young woman who refused to have sex with him, is depicted unflinchingly in Patel’s poem “She Said No.” Delving into the mind of the enemy, she writes, “I want to know what it takes/ to beat a woman to death”.
Daphne Gottlieb’s “Liability” is one of the most powerful prose-poems I have ever read. She describes an almost childlike game of dress up in which she dons a wig, high heels, tube top and miniskirt to buy groceries up the street from her apartment. She ends up being accosted and bludgeoned by a man who bloodies her eye and cheek. You will have to buy the book to read for yourself the unnerving yet strangely logical conclusion.
In “Calliope” she describes the herstory of relationships with severely emotionally disturbed women. She notes, “All this time I thought I’ve been kissing, but maybe I’m always doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, kissing dead girls in the hopes that the heart will start again. Where there’s breath, I’ve heard, there’s hope.”
I cannot recommend this book enough. If words could catch paper on fire, Bullets & Butterflies could burn down every bookstore and library in the world.