Peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
My Rating: 5 Stars!
Publisher: Button Poetry
Publish Date: September 26th, 2017
Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review
One of the most original performance poets of her generation, Melissa Lozada-Oliva has captivated crowds across the country and online with her vivid narratives. Humorous and biting, personal and communal, self-deprecating and unapologetically self-loving, peluda (meaning “hairy” or “hairy beast”) is the poet at her best. The book explores the relationship between femininity and body hair as well as the intersections of family, class, the immigrant experience, Latina identity, and much more, all through Lozada-Oliva’s unique lens and striking voice. peluda is a powerful testimony on body image and the triumph over taboo.
This poetry book is SO GOOD! The whole thing was this unapologetic look at what it means to be a first generation American and living in a world where cultures combine and touch your life to where your parts become nothing else, but human. However, Peluda is so much more then that. It is about being comfortable in your own skin and not being ashamed of who you are, even letting out your inner werewolf and being unafraid of being feral every once in a while.
There was one single poem that made this poetry book so much more to me and that poem was “You Know how to say Arroz Con Pollo but Not What You Are”. I finished this poem and I cried. I cried because even though her situation is the complete opposite of my own it felt like she got it.. got me. It was everything I had ever wanted to say, but in different words.
As it was World Poetry Day today I will share this poem with you all in full.
You Know how to say Arroz Con Pollo but Not What You Are
If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish I will tell you
My Spanish is an itchy phantom limb: reaching for a word and only finding air
My Spanish is my third birthday party: half of it is memory, and the other half is a photograph on the fridge is what my family has told me
If you ask me if I am fluent I I will tell you that
My Spanish is a puzzle left in the rain
Too soggy to make its parts fit so that it can look just like the picture on the box.
I will tell you that
My Spanish is possessive adjectives.
It is proper nouns dressed in pearls and bracelets.
It is are you up yet. It is there is a lot to do today
My Spanish is on my resume as a skill.
My Spanish is on his favorite shirt in red mouth marks
If you ask me I will tell you
My Spanish is hungrier than it was before.
My Spanish reaches for words at the top of a shelf without a stepping stool
is hit in the head with all of the old words that have been hiding up there
My Spanish wonders how bad is it to eat something that’s expired
My Spanish wonders if it has an expiration date
If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish I will tell you that
My Spanish is the smell of Windex, the tearing of paper towels, the flushing of toilets, the splash of a mop
My Spanish bites on a pencil in the corner of a classroom and does not raise its hand
My Spanish cancelled plans with you so that it could watch movies
My Spanish is my older sister’s sore smile at her only beauty pageant
My Spanish is a made up story about a parent who never came home
My Spanish is a made up story about a parent who never came home and traveled to beautiful places and sent me post cards from all of them
My Spanish is me, tracing my fingers along every letter they were able to fit in
My Spanish is the real story of my parent’s divorce
Chaotic, broken and something I have to choose to remember correctly
My Spanish is wondering when my parents will be American
asking me if I’m white yet
If you ask me if I am fluent in Spanish I will try to tell you the story
of how my parents met in an ESL class
How it was when they trained their mouths to say
I love you in a different language, I hate you with their mouths shut
I will tell you how my father’s accent makes him sound like Zoro
how my mother tried to tie her tongue to a post with an English language leash
I will tell you that the tongue always ran stubbornly back to the language it had always been in love with
Even when she tried to tame it
it always turned loose
If you ask me if I am in fluent
I will tell you
My Spanish is understanding that there are stories that will always be out of my reach
there are people who will never fit together the way that I want them to
there are some letters that will always stay silent
there are some words that will always escape me.
This poem is gorgeous, emotional, and full of so much raw truth. I know it is not one that would make most people cry, but for me after I first read it I was an emotional mess. I am someone who was born only being seen as a typical white girl to outsiders. However, I was adopted and raised into a Spanish family. I grew up in a way not connecting to any specific culture and so I don’t really feel like anything but a human being (I don’t really believe I can claim any specific culture or that I should claim one). However, I grew up hearing Spanish around the house and listening to mariachi music at fairs and eating tamales, pupusas, and huevos con chorizo. More then anything else I learned how to speak Spanish in the way of food, but I never became fluent and can understand far more then I could ever say. But for me it was the end of this poem that really got to me. There will always be words I don’t understand and so many stories that I will never hear and it felt like a great loss to me and the tears came. This poem was beautiful and in so many ways it broke my heart.
All of the poems in Peluda are filled with power. This is one of my favorite poetry books I have ever read and I hope that so many others find the beauty in it that I did.
Thanks for reading! Let me know your thoughts down in the comments!
-Till next time!