Publisher's Weekly Review of Dominique Christina's 4th Book "Anarcha Speaks"


Anarcha Speaks: A History in Poems

Dominique Christina. Beacon, $16 trade paper (92p) ISBN 978-0-8070-0921-5

In this 2017 National Poetry Series–winning collection, performer, educator, and activist Christina (This Is Woman’s Work) revives the voice of the long-silenced Anarcha, an enslaved black woman who was subjected to numerous painful medical experiments by 19th-century physician J. Marion Sims. Often referred to as the “father of modern gynecology,” Sims achieved his whitewashed legacy through implementing physical, mental, and emotional violence on black women without consent. The names of these victims have been all but lost to the passage of time, with the exception of three, including Anarcha. With lyrical descriptions that showcase emotional vulnerability, Christina captures the voice of Anarcha and writes, “i been hungry so long/ famine my only song// i split by an ocean/ i torn up by longing.” The poet’s rendition of Anarcha challenges the idea of resilience as resistance, painting death as the ultimate relief: “we lost our mouths/ ’cross a mighty mighty ocean./ coulda died but we don’t know how.” For his part, Sims acts as a malevolent shadow, a predator pretending to be God who is determined to “learn the diabolical complexity/ Of woman: a synonym for ruin.” Subverting the white gaze, Christina rejects the idea of Anarcha, and all the other nameless enslaved women, as mere footnotes in the success of Sims. (Oct.)