the matchstick litanies by jo reyes-boitel
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Blending poetic memoir and revelation, the matchstick litanies opens on family violence and women’s work—both often silenced. These richly detailed poems, however, reclaim the voice of a speaker who excavates family stories woven with hard truths, spanning generations and who comes to see clearly their own "inheritance by what was visible: translucent scorpions braving the hot sidewalks, / winged ants following one another without end." jo reyes-boitel's poems are bold and brave; they refuse to look away from what is burning and show us that sometimes fire can create a path for self-fulfillment.
the matchstick litanies hold the power to burn it all down, but they are wise survivors, weaving a poetics of witness and experience into an exceptional and necessary testimonio. The collection makes room for frogs and stars in its cinematography and for lyric leaps in its score to “bring the spirit back to the body” without “false sunrise” and with conocimiento. jo reyes-boitel is a master storyteller of the past and present with a keen eye on the future, which is an act of love for us all in need of this sabiduría.
—Emmy Pérez, 2020 Texas State Poet Laureate, With the River on Our Face
What might it mean to be in relation as husband and wife, as brother and sister, mother and daughter, father and daughter, as one wedded to the sky above and the surrounding landscape?
In the matchstick litanies, jo reyes-boitel is an attentive poet-observer telling us the answers rest in the nucleus of a family haunted by hurt. In this family men inherit pain, control pain, and bequeath its violence while women labor and exist at their mercy. Despite the wreckage, it is reyes-boitel’s lyrical crafting of brief pastoral moments—mesquite trees passed on a winter’s drive home or the
“constant bird caws, the constant sun”—that provide both poet and reader not escape from familial combustion, but a momentary solace.
—Niki Herd, author of The Language of Shedding Skin and co-editor Laura Hershey: On the Life & Work of an American Master
Through the darkness of so many of these poems, jo’s resilient and beautiful voice resonates with longing and love for their subject. Haunting and memorable, these poems will linger in your mind and soul. Family, childhood, complicated and difficult relationships reside here. The poet tends to their language with great care. Often these palpable images and lines will leave you breathless. reyes-boitel is an important poet, this book will alight your dreams and expectations!
—Virgil Suárez, visual artist, writer, and poet, AMERIKAN CHERNOBYL
jo reyes-boitel is a poet and playwright, queer mixed Latinx, amateur hand percussionist, and parent. Nearly completing their MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley, they serve as a presidential fellow and teach undergraduate creative writing. jo is a fellow of Macondo and Voices of Our Nations (VONA). Their hybrid opera, “she wears bells”, was chosen as a 2022 Guerilla Opera Virtual Festival finalist. Previous publications include Michael + Josephine, a novel in verse (FlowerSong Press, 2019), and the chapbook, mouth (Neon Hemlock, 2021). Their hybrid opera, “she wears bells”, was chosen as a 2022 Guerilla Opera Virtual Festival finalist.