Play for Time: Poems
Selected by Vijay Seshadri as the winner of the 2019 Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize.
"Unimpeachable . . . round and rich and exfoliating with intuition, hesitation, self-questionings, and personhood." --Vijay Seshadri, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, 3 Sections
"If you were made to speak a language you labored to make yours, I wrote it for you. If you wished you could unwrite, rewrite, or write in stone or water any number of lifetimes you've endured, I wrote it for you. If you felt that the only home you've known was inside words; if you have written the names of lovers on pieces of paper and burned them in spells; if you understand which words hurt and which heal; if you've begged for more and for mercy, I wrote it for you."
In her blistering debut, Paula Mendoza wields the weapon of language as she dismantles the longstanding traditions of the colonial narrative, male speech, and the sentimental love poem. Taking on the forms of historically polarizing figures--the witch, the femme-dom, Eve--the speaker of her poems is both submissive object and powerful agent that wills herself caught between pirate and plunder, that rewrites linguistic scripts to survive oppression, that self-immolates into a state of rebirth, that asks what use or meaning can be made of brokenness and displacement.
Playful and deliberate, innovative and strange, Play for Time, Mendoza's debut collection of experimental lyric poems demolishes the literary commonplaces of "universality" and provides a timely introduction to an explosively original voice in poetry.
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About the Author
"Unimpeachable in the rigor and mathematical clarity of their forms but are also round and rich and exfoliating with intuition, hesitation, self-questionings, and personhood. Everything about them--their image-making, their quicksilver intelligence, their ability to capture the movements of the mind--partakes of this double nature, this double consciousness, and by doing so rebalances and makes exquisite our human position." --Vijay Seshadri, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, 3 Sections
"In these strange and unsettling poems, Mendoza catalogues how bodies become objects of consumption, voyeurism, and desire, and uses the imagery and politics of climate change to describe the immigrant and female body. This body, threatened with radical alteration and even collapse, reimagines itself through Mendoza's highly inventive language, and turns itself strange, mythic, and new. Mendoza's mordant, playful poems upend the 'conventional' narrative of racial and gender identity and radically rewrite our ideas of syntax to reframe the reader's gaze." --Paisley Rekdal, Utah poet laureate and author of Nightingale
"Cerebral, sensual, utterly cinematic, Paula Mendoza's book calls to mind the silken, glassy pleasures of backstrokes through the surface of observations by writers who raise the spectre of the eroticized body and strip it down to its political stakes. . . . Mendoza's language . . . gyrates, mercurial and still damp, at the border of affect and hallucination. Except this hallucination renders the formation of the subject, the woman, 'between two roars, ' swinging between her own sovereignty and her status as object. . . . The poetic and filmic composition of the female subject--to be seen at all--so often needs a state of emergency produced by patriarchy's distortions. But Mendoza retorts, offering an eloquent cinematography for our collective, long, lyric 'no'." --Divya Victor, author of Kith and Curb
"Lush and charismatic. . . . What makes this poetry stellar is how Mendoza's rigorous diction leads to fresh ways of saying those things-said-before-but-not-often-heard, and this is even before she disrupts English with non-English. . . . These poems are not just gems--they're gorgeous." --Eileen Tabios, winner of the Philippines' National Book Award for Poetry
"Play for Time snips narrative's connective tissue, unravels arcs, knots, filmstrips, secrets, and viscera." --Danielle Pafunda, author of Spite
"The words you see on the page will manifest in your mouth, because you cannot see them without saying them, and as you say those words you will point at a target that isn't there . . . Mendoza's writing is at once a sublanguage and a superlanguage: she draws from sentiments so deep they claw up to us filthy and estranged yet intimate; but she also regards them from within an icy, alien, analytical calm. . . . You'll turn this book over and over, unable to determine if it's a weapon or a toy, undulant artifact from another world that is--thanks to Mendoza's craft and force--now alarmingly and gorgeously our own." --Raymond McDaniel, author of The Cataracts