Book Reviews

i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown): A Portal Into Leia Penina Wilson’s “Mad” World

By: Lorenia Salgado

“i am looking for something to keep me warm in the winter / when the 51hdnt-0IVLsky lets loose snow and all its other feelings,” writes Leia Penina Wilson in i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown). The collection contains six sections of revelatory, fearless, and compelling poems filled with daunting and memorable lyricism. This electrifying body of work carries its readers through the paradoxical stages of the self’s cathartic moments.

Throughout the collection, Wilson examines the—at times—annihilating process of uncovering the mind’s most intimate and fragile voice. Even though there is a nostalgic exhibition between “she” and “he,” where the poems tease out the different attitudes the characters adopt, the “i” becomes the overarching force in Wilson’s poetry.

In each section, Wilson transports readers into the very core of the self’s emotional, animalistic, and sometimes irrational responses to love and desire, and the angst that comes from the mind’s haunting doses of (un)willing imagination:

“i was real in that moment—beware of the real: it’s vibrant and tortured—they say not to look back be afraid of the real: i’m left disembodied his head sings unbodied down the river / let me kiss your mouth again.”

While there still is a hopeful sense of exploring uncharted territories, in “of torque in some color” “she” still nests in doubt:

“she’s concerned the noise / in her is interfering / her everyday life / she’s concerned her / everyday life is interfered. / how close it is to fear. / she howls.”

“one two three four seven” juxtaposes the roles between “she” and “he,” further exploring the phenomenological nature of “i” when it is possessed by the other:

“why is she being a girl so in love. why does it always come down to that. she wonders what makes her a girl made her this way she rages they rage apart […] he bites her lip too hard intentionally breaks her but she is already a little broke […] i didn’t destroy this world our world. i just made it so nothing could survive.”

“eventually there is some light” ponders the inevitable metamorphosis of a fragmented self. The process of unveiling an unidentifiable entity in an environment not easy to rationalize, Wilson writes:

“she’s almost sure the world looks a little different but if pressed she couldn’t tell you how exactly / she wonders if she’ll pass herself on the street someday / if she’ll recognize herself / she is unrecognizable at the moment / you wouldn’t recognize her”

Powerfully irresistible, i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown) paints a world irrationally relatable. Wilson uses intoxicating language to tear apart the mind’s most intimate possessions: where fear, and desire nests. i built a boat takes the reader on an exhilarating journey, creating a map inside all those pages, daringly transporting us to the realm where her poetry inhabits. The collection also goes beyond the simple and plainspoken lyric. Wilson’s poetry is a compelling voice worth taking the time to explore:

“i am seeking / the crucial region of the soul where response is pitted against intimately / implicated anteriors”

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i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown) is Leia Penina Wilson’s debut collection. Her work can be found in Black Warrior Review, Interim, Handsome, Heavy Feather Review, Mud Luscious, and others. Wilson is currently working towards her PhD in poetry at the University of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Purchase i built a boat with all the towels in your closet (and will let you drown)

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