Recipe for a Revolution with Chipped Turquoise Nails: A Review of Love Cake: Poems by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
by: Wendy Elisheva Somerson on October 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
I can tell you that once I picked up Love Cake, I could not put it down until I finished every poem, even though I sometimes had to read through my tears. Upon finishing, I immediately had to call a femme friend to read her a poem that reminded me of her. Relocating from my couch to my bed, I sank in and re-read the entire collection.
I want to say that the poems tore out my heart. I keep seeing an image of my heart getting pulled out of my chest, but my heart does not remain in the air, naked and exposed. Instead, birds carefully wind orange velvet ribbons around it before they replace it in my chest cavity, prettier and stronger than it was before. These poems demand that I feel everything more intensely–including grief and rage–but in return, they give me back something I didn’t know I was missing: an expansive sense of possibility. The morning after I read this collection, I woke up from my sleep with a feeling of anticipation, remembering that I had been given an unexpectedly precious gift that I will carry deep inside me.
The gift of this poetry collection is nothing less than a roadmap to what liberation can look like for queer people who survive personal and collective trauma. Describing border crossings that she experiences as a queer working class person of color, Leah Laskshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha gives voice to the involuntary incursions on her body: child abuse, colonialism, racism, and war; as well as her voluntary crossings of boundaries: leaving her family of origin, rediscovering her roots in Sri Lanka, and reclaiming her body. She maintains a tension between oppression and healing throughout, in poems that leave no doubt about her power as a survivor, healer, and activist.