Chosen by Ross Gay as the winner of the inaugural (2016–7) Jake Adam York Prize.
Analicia Sotelo’s debut collection of poems is a vivid portrait of the artist as a young woman.
In Virgin, Sotelo walks the line between autobiography and mythmaking, offering up identities like dishes at a feast. These poems devour and complicate tropes of femininity—of naiveté, of careless abandon—before sharply exploring the intelligence and fortitude of women, how “far & wide, / how dark & deep / this frigid female mind can go.” A schoolgirl hopelessly in love. A daughter abandoned by her father. A seeming innocent in a cherry-red cardigan, lurking at the margins of a Texas barbeque. A contemporary Ariadne with her monstrous Theseus. A writer with a penchant for metaphor and a character who thwarts her own best efforts. “A Mexican American fascinator.”
At every step, Sotelo’s poems seduce with history, folklore, and sensory detail—grilled meat, golden habañeros, and burnt sugar—before delivering clear-eyed and eviscerating insights into power, deceit, relationships, and ourselves. Here is what it means to love someone without truly understanding them. Here is what it means to be cruel. And here is what it means to become an artist, of words and of the self.
Blistering and gorgeous, Virgin is an audacious act of imaginative self-mythology from one of our most promising young poets.
“‘We’re all performing our bruises,’ says a speaker in Analicia Sotelo’s brilliant Virgin, and that’s exactly the kind of precise and wise and not-a-little-bit-hurting observations this book is made of. . . . What I love is how, by leaning into the many registers of heartbreak, Sotelo makes something incredibly beautiful.” —Ross Gay
“This debut collection brings us a poet self-aware, intensely observant of visual culture and social dynamics, knowledgeable about myth and process with a great understanding of craft. Virgin makes you look again at the power of the feminine and the necessity of feminism.” —Patricia Spears Jones
“Deliriously ruthless in its interrogation of the religious and sexual dynamics that shape us, Virgin is like a Victorian wedding gown beaded with canonical plunder and deconstructed by Frida Kahlo.” —Karyna McGlynn
“Steeped in memory, legend, and dream, Virgin is a wildly brilliant book. . . . Here family history, parable, and Greek myth combine into stories that, for all their daring, feel intimate and personal.” —Kevin Prufer
“This latter-day Ariadne indulges, declines, and so abides as to transform the ceremonies of strange and lover alike into the knowledge of hidden causes. these sly parables relate the length a ‘female mind can go’ to render acuity with charm in the face of disapproval or indifference.” —Roberto Tejada