Reading Was Body provided a jolt I didn’t realize I needed. Using tropes of iteration and erasure, medical mythologies, nude portraiture, phantasmagoria, and “theme and variation” on phrases ranging from “cellar door” to “lighter fluid,” Billie R. Tadros bewitches us with language’s associative properties. Fun House Mirror Sonnets? Here. The emotional semantics of Hollandaise sauce? Here. These are poems of loss and reckoning; yet these nimble poems also claim life, in tooth and claw, and the possibilities of love. “A Ferris wheel spelling/appellations,” a speaker observes, “bulb color.” I’m grateful to take the ride.
It feels dangerous to build an entire collection around a single love affair, but Tadros is willing to take the risk. As she writes, “Most fever has reason, and so/there is cause for heat.” And in her collection Was Body, she mines that heat—the highs and lows, the desperate longings and the even more desperate fulfillments of those longings—to create a collection that circles, echoes, and twists. Fraught with the themes of obsession, suicide, and self-harm, the book nonetheless contains moving love poems, the best of which are tight sonnets that recall the power of Marilyn Hacker’s intimate portraits of two women in love and in bed. But like all good love stories, this one casts long shadows, into which Tadros steps with an eerie comfort: “you can/elegize the dying with their own/words, I’ve been wearing yours/as a veil.”
This invigorating collection brings such stark & stellar clarity to the language of grief that it’s sometimes difficult to know if Tadros is deftly flexing in magical realism or we’re finally encountering a poet who can give it to us straight. Either way, Was Body remains a fresh & haunting reintroduction to the corporeal form as a wilderness for word play & reclamation.
Billie R. Tadros is an assistant professor in the Department of English and Theatre and an affiliated faculty member in the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at The University of Scranton. She is the author of two other books of poems, The Tree We Planted and Buried You In (Otis Books, 2018) and Graft Fixation (Gold Wake Press, 2021). You can find more of her and her work at BillieRTadros.com.
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Paperback: 92 pages
Published: June 1, 2020
Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
Shipping Weight: 5.1 ounces