I received an ARC of this book from the author
Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing by Topaz Winters
Published May 27, 2019
FINALIST, 2018 Broken River Prize & 2018 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize www.topazwinters.com/bookshop/portrait SYNOPSIS Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing is an award-winning, omnivorous collection of poetry residing in the space between confessional & manifesto. Portrait is interested in the immediacy of language; in girlhood as wolfhood; in the cartography of illness; in fractures through the dark; in bodies, human & water alike. Luminous, tender, & unflinching, Portrait cuts straight to the marrow. To all those whose bodies have been more bruise than human, this is for you. ABOUT Topaz Winters is a poet, essayist, editor, creative director, speaker, scholar, actress, & multidisciplinary artist. She studies literature & film at Princeton University. Portrait of My Body as a Crime I’m Still Committing is her 4th book & 3rd poetry collection. More at topazwinters.com.
When I accepted a review copy of Portrait of My Body as A Crime I’m Still Committing I was a bit apprehensive because I’ve never reviewed a poetry collection before. So here is my review, coming from the perspective of someone who appreciates poetry, but who doesn’t have much experience with it outside of class.
This was a strong collection. Reading it I felt a strong sense unity, based on the use of motifs and the interconnection between the different topics Winters explores. I loved the distinction between physical hunger, which was portrayed as cold and restrained, and the hot wolf-like hunger of love and lust. The contrast between the two made each poem more impactful.
One of the first things I noticed about that writing was how the form of the poem supported and elevated the content. In the poem Self-Diagnosis, the line break and the short sentences force us to breathe more shallowly, just like what the narrator is experiencing.
” I forcep. I chest. I failure
in broken breaths. I tragedy
I exist. I layer of bone
beneath. I swollen holy ” (2-5)
In other poems things like empty spaces in the middle of a line or the absence of line breaks also add to the reading experience. In general, I wound that Winters was convincing in the ways in which she shaped language to build tension. For the same reasons I was also able to enjoy the poems that I read quickly just as I did those that I took a deeper look into.
Two types of poems got strong emotions out of me, the first one being those about food and body image. Reading them made my heart rate spike up because my initial reaction was to look away. I shouldn’t be reading this. We’re not supposed to say this, even if that’s what we are thinking. These poems forced me to take a look at myself and consider why I held those things as taboos and if that the right reaction.
The second set consisted of the poems about loving girls. They had such a strong energy that reading them made me feel powerful and understood. Once again, the use of hunger in this context is something I’ve grown up learning to push down, but in this case the order of the poems prepared me for the journey.
The third poem of the collection, Trigger, was my favorite. It reminded me of coming out to my parents and what came after. Since I first read it I’ve been unable to stop thinking about it and I keep going back and rereading it.
Since the collection brought me in so quickly by the time I got to the sections I could have been intimidated by I was ready to read on and grow. The description of confessional & manifesto is well deserved and I don’t doubt that I will get even more out of it was I reread and reread it.
I’m looking forward to read more of Winters’ poetry and I hope you check her out too.