The world is truly in an age of good poetry. If one knows where to look, new publications of poems are everywhere, filling readers with awe and inspiration. Button Poetry – well known for their YouTube channel of popular slam poets performing and competing – has been publishing the best of the best for the last couple years, and they have once again helped produce another gem of a book. In her debut collection of poems, Peluda, Melissa Lozada-Oliva explores her roots through poetry about her family, inhabiting a brown body, and all the hairiness she encompasses.
Peluda focuses on a central theme of family, heritage, and being a brown woman in America. Often throughout the book, she writes imagery and allusions to hair, further driving these themes home. Waxing is a motif in several of her poems, acting as an experience shared with other females in her family, how it makes her feel different than the white women she encounters, and how it ties her to her Latina roots. All of the poet’s pieces are deftly written – some brimming with heart, several with fear and anger, and others with acute sarcasm and humor. In the poem ‘Yosra Strings Off My Mustache Two Days After the Election in a Harvard Square Bathroom’ she writes, “I think of what the most / guatemalan-colombian thing I’ve ever done / is maybe it’s grow. I think about the most American / thing we’ve ever done it’s hide in this bathroom. / I think about the most womanly thing / we’ve ever done it’s live anyway.” This quote is just a small sample of the brilliant writing one will find within the pages of Peluda.
The pieces are structured like many page poems, with various assortments of line breaks and stanzas, though some of Lozada-Oliva’s poems play with spacing a bit more than others. The poem “Lip / Stain / Must / Ache” experiments with the spacing between words on the page, and “Wolf Girl Suite” – the longest poem in the book – uses several different styles in its five segments. Every poem reads beautifully; the audience will have no choice but to turn each page to discover amazing poem after amazing poem.
For those fond of the visual art of slam poetry, some of the poems in Peluda can also be viewed. The poems “Yosra Strings Off My Mustache“, “The Women in My Family Are Bitches,” and “You Know How to Say Arroz con Pollo” are all on YouTube, along with a slew of Lozada-Oliva’s other work. There is also a great interview she gave with Button Poetry, the book’s publisher, about her writing process, her experiences, and what this book means to her.
There is power in poetry, and Melissa Lozada-Oliva hones it masterfully. Her stories of womanhood are important and sorrowful and beautiful and, of course, hairy. One would be a fool to not buy her book.
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