Mawenzi House

Bodymap

By 
Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
Mawenzi House, 97 pages, $18.95
2015
Reviewed by 
Chelene Knight

Bodymap by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha uses Dawn’s quote as a preface, setting up a bold framework for what’s to come. This book is pure Piepzna-Samarasinha—tough and full of desire; it needs to be flaunted in all its glory.

Her poems—divided into six sections—gain your attention immediately. Her quest for healing includes multiple references to self-pleasure, formed and folded into a self-made medication for daily, unpredictable pain. Her words flow steadily, preaching a blunt, soulful mix of expert line breaks and thoughtful syntax through prose and other forms that work to create a bodily connection, such as in “dirty river girl”: “For my body / for your body / to come back from being swept away?” 

 Raw, like the way it feels in the moment after losing a lover—that same feeling comes through in these poems. They claw at you, pleading. Pipepzna-Samarasinha’s bold personal truths—like, the way a woman looks at her own body and/or tries sharing her beauty with others—forces us to see ourselves in this collection. We all have experienced pain, lost love, self-loathing and fear of failure. Bodymap is the mirror that reflects this right back at us. 

In Bodymap, the shape of each poem tailors to the speaker’s voice, whether that’s simple or complex—even short stanzas do the work they are meant to do. In the poem “a million dollars,” she says, “I want you to love me / after the lipstick wears off.” These words carry so much weight because we all want to be loved and know what it’s like when that love is unreachable. The feeling itself lingers, much like those two lines.

Although many poems tell tales of past pain, there is no victim seeking pity. Instead there are stories embedded between these pages. Pipepzna-Samarasinha weaves race, queer love, and the sensuality of a woman’s body into one tangible entity. Although each can serve a purpose on their own, the braiding of the three is what makes them grip and hold on tight to each other on this trip through our own body’s map.

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