BOOKS

Set against the cultural milieu of the 1980s, See the Wolf tells the story of violence against women and girls through retold traditional fairytale and myth as well as the specific narrative of a single mother and her two daughters fighting to define their own lives.  See the Wolf looks unflinchingly at sexual objectification and the uses of gender stereotype, physical threat, violence, and predation to control women and girls.  “What are the chances,” it asks.  “that a man who flashes his teeth when he talks / doesn’t bite?”  Always sensitive to the dangers of their surroundings, trained to flee or to fight, these women ultimately refuse the role of victim being forced on them and instead take ownership of their narrative, as they learn “To fear is animal. / To create out of fear must be human-“

"In lines both disruptive and alluring, See the Wolf startles us back into the skin of our adolescent selves.  With sonic panache and sleight of hand, Sousa makes perfume out of the hypnagogic fears that permeate our girlhoods: the fear of being stolen and the fear of being abandoned, the fear of being trapped and the fear of being eaten alive, the fear that “one’s limbs don’t belong to the body.” These poems dazzle and sear, rocketing through the dark expanse of our collective girlhood.  It’s scary stuff, but so gloriously lit that we stare when we know we should be running away."

-Karyna McGlynn

 

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          The Diary 
    of Esther Small,                   1886

One morning in Maine, poet Sarah Sousa discovered a small, red-leather pocket diary dated 1886, written in an idiosyncratic, often illegible hand and a clipped, almost coded style. The diarist, Sousa eventually sleuths out, is Esther Small, a forty-two-year-old pregnant, stoic, and abused farmwife who, it appears, was destined to be heard. 'Esther's voice had gotten into my head and I couldn't help but want to give her more of an opportunity to speak,' says Sousa. 'The handful of diaries written by ordinary women that find their way to publication must stand in for the rest. Those few, and now Esther's among them, that find even a scant readership have succeeded in giving voice to a silent generation.'

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"Just as history braids the threads of human lives, so Sousa gathers multiple voices into a chorus that rages and laments. Her chorus is a mingling of Native Americans and European colonizers, speaking initially from the Contact Period in 1600s New England, then traversing Midwest in the early 1900s. The brutality and subjugation that are mentioned as abstracts in American history textbooks return to their breathing, bleeding bodies in Sousa’s hands. Split the Crow is a book that wrenches and haunts, “dark / and sweet as a raven’s wing” (19). In excavating the remains of a past life and culture’s lifeblood, Sousa’s reaffirms indigenous force, if not authority: “Sad because extinct but still / possessing mythical teeth, legs, claws” (6). History doesn’t slumber – it is couched in shadow, waiting to emerge from dust." Sabrina Barreto, Eleven Eleven

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YELL is A page by page erasure of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, Sousa’s Yell subverts and contemporizes the original story of an oppressed housewife, and would-be writer, driven mad. In this version, the heroine speaks of her repression and slow descent into the amnesia of self, before finally awakening to the many women she contains. Though her emancipation is preceded by something which resembles the madness of Gilman’s original, this shadow heroine ultimately claims her haunted, multifarious nature. She chooses liberation, surfacing from the nightmare conscious of her capacity for darkness and light; owning them both and fully awake.

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Yell

Church of Needles
         

 CHURCH OF NEEDLES dwells in the tension between our desire for autonomy and our need for connection; with each other, with our own mercurial selves, with god. If the poems circle a place of alienation, where even the landscape appears aloof if not hostile, where the bond between a mother and her newborn isn't a given, they often arrive at redemption, but a curiously godless one. Threaded through poems of darkness, of abuse, betrayal, witness and hardship, god is merciless when present, but more often obstinately absent. The voices of a ridiculed small town giantess, the abused wife of a Civil War veteran and a former slave making her way in the north dialogue with contemporary voices telling their own stories of suffering. Loneliness, like an Andrew Wyeth landscape, is the familiar ground on which these characters have built their lives, not counting on but surprised by unexpected grace.

© 2017 Sarah Sousa