Narrated by a speaker in mourning marked as an at-risk juvenile, Beast Meridian follows a first-generation Mexican-American girl in crisis surviving the painful experiences of a racialized girlhood, cultural displacement, generational trauma, familial loss, economic struggle, and violence. In turn, this collection radically dreams and imagines a surreal state in which these damages may be recovered, and in which the fragmented self may be remembered and re-membered.
BEST OF LISTS
- NBC News
- Literary Hub, "Our Favorite Poetry Collections of 2017"
- Bustle, "15 Protest Poets You Should Be Reading During National Poetry Month"
- Bustle, "21 Poems By Queer Poets To Read This Pride Month"
- Entropy Best of 2017
- BookRiot, "15 WOC Poets To Read During National Poetry Month"
- Small Press Distribution Bestseller (October, November, December 2017; February, April, July 2018)
REVIEWS AND PRAISE
- "The power and pulse in Villarreal’s debut collection of poems comes from the courage to write “for the great violences hidden inside women/ For the women hidden inside great violences.” Her emotional territory is expansive, reaching far into the mythologies of Mexico and the borderlands, the recesses of family traumas, and the plight of personal demons. Taking linguistic, structural, and expressive risks, this book is necessary “to survive this nightmare so American.”" —Rigoberto Gonzalez, NBC News
- "... Villarreal interlocks her story with that of other Latin@s who have already survived, or are still working through the pain of what Anzaldúa called the herida abierta, the open wound of the border. Correctly applied, Villarreal suggests by example, a red-hot poetry can cauterize such wounds." —Cassandra Cleghorn, Los Angeles Review of Books
- "Villarreal’s poems carefully and boldly draw wider horizons for this body, inventing a new space where daughters, particularly daughters of diaspora, can be spectral cosmology, rather than digestible stereotype or silent victim. Melancholia, grief, the spectacular violence of living within a society that hunts and tames non-white women, destroys but also creates new meanings ... Somehow her poems gesture that for us daughters of immigrants, part beast, part estrella, there still exists an elsewhere, a radiating solar system, yet to be broken and conquered." —Zaina Alsous, The Miami Rail
- "This book is good. Great. Amazing. Maverick. Beast Meridian isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, angry, hopeful, loving, experimental, dense, mythic, academic, Latinx, feminist, weak, strong, anti-institutional, sentimental, cross disciplinary, playful, estranged, concrete, fluid, etc. It’s all of those things at once."—Reyes Ramirez, Glass: A Journal of Poetry
- "Beast Meridian is not just a collection of borderland, Latinx or Chicanx experiences and the stages where whiteness erases them—it is a physical place, a liminal house in which the speaker confronts her life in the eternal hallway of the subconscious." —Sara Borjas, Connotation Press
- "Beast Meridian introduces us to a wildly inventive voice in Latinx literature. In her first full-length collection, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal confounds and delights with poems that are challenging, experimental, and deeply engrossing." —Rodney Gomez, Latino Book Review
- "With daring invention and re-invention of forms, Sealey [Ordinary Beast] and Villarreal confront the historical and everyday enactments of violence upon racialized, queer, and female bodies, as well as the accumulative effects of trauma, made strikingly visceral.” —Rosa Alcalá, NBC News
- "Rigoberto González recommends his two favorite books of 2017," Los Angeles Times
- "We need more writers with dirty, unashamed mouths at the moment ... This narrative of one brown grrl’s survival in the face a harsh, harsh world doesn’t deign to negotiate; it sneers and schemes ..." —John Pleucker, BOMB Magazine
- "Vanessa Angélica Villarreal’s Beast Meridian ... is a haunting, a heartbreak. Beast Meridian turns trauma into astounding mythology, pushing through loss and erasure to find what it means to be a woman, to be lost, to find yourself anyway." —Soraya Membreno, BITCH Magazine
Eduardo C. Corral, author of SLOW LIGHTNING, Winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize
“In Beast Meridian, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal braids searing lyricism and intimate narratives into utterances and patterns that radicalize the heart and the eye. Rooted in the borderlands, Villarreal’s language—scarred but alive—confronts and refutes the violence of erasure and assimilation. ‘Every brutal abandoning’ of the self and of the flesh is rigorously and intensely rendered. Line after line shimmers with grace and fury. Vanessa Angélica Villarreal is an innovative and necessary poet. Beast Meridian is a high watermark in Latinx poetry. I will be teaching it often.”
Khadijah Queen, Winner of the 2014 Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers and author of I'M SO FINE: A LIST OF FAMOUS MEN AND WHAT I HAD ON
Beast Meridian is a fierce incantation, harnessing the intuition and intelligence of personae navigating a "melancholy galaxy" full of the violences of societies and families, in which the pain of the earth and the pain of the body are not separate. In languages of tenderness and weaponry, landscapes and bodyscapes, insight and foresight, talismanic memories and imaginings, Vanessa Angelica Villareal constructs layered complications to see newly into, or grieve not being able to look beyond. Far from surrender, the poems write toward a communal resilience: "entre todas las mujeres we kneel to push away the final night"—a unity among wounded women, their collective mythology infused with necessary interrogations and radiant intensity, as they (and their words) "spill & spill until we spread / like a flood."
Aracelis Girmay, National Endowment of the Arts Fellow and author of THE BLACK MARIA
Vanessa Villareal’s poems are alive, haired, precise and strange with ardor, with loss, with a remembering (live and lit!) born out of the crossroads of elegy and desire. With these poems I feel I have the rare and gorgeous chance to experience a formal invention built out of urgency, and with such intimacy. Here there is a diction, a music, knived and lucid. A body, or bodies, shapeshifting across pages, possessed and dispossessing, dying-birthing-getting born, simultaneously “I” and “we”: “your black cervix my first egg drop & / so we hatched myself—“. There is such a brilliance everywhere here.