Book Review : Juliet Escoria - Witch Hunt (2016)
My hands are cold and my heart is an asshole
Every man I know (self-included) is constantly struggling not to think of women in sexual terms. It's stupid, but part of the problem is biological so it will probably never going away unless we collectively self-castrate. The beauty of (creative) writing is that gender doesn't transpire on paper if you let it. Juliet Escoria's poetry collection Witch Hunt isn't militant or anything. It's not openly challenging gender equity or concealing its feminine touch. It's much better than that. Witch Hunt screams louder than anyone in the room. It addresses everyone in that same room you're standing in too. I don't read much poetry, but I fail to see how much more enjoyable it can get.
See, Juliet Escoria has a devil in her heart. If you're doubting that statement, I invite you to watch Witch Hunt's book trailer on her website. There is an unfathomable anger to Escoria's writing that made it instantly endearing to me. Not the type of anger carried by people who have been wronged. Something much deeper than that, which hates the fabric of life itself. It's hard to explain when you haven't been this angry yourself, but I found it best expressed in the poem Sexy Terrorist. I've had visions of tearing reality apart like this since I was a child, but never before I've seen it this well portrayed.
I want to be a sexy monster
stomping on everything
destroying until it has
all been crumbled
to rubble and powder bones
with nothing to hear but my
The righteous anger of Juliet Escoria isn't the only calling card of Witch Hunt, though. There's an entire section of the collection written in prose and addressed to a series of ex-boyfriends. It has a quiet vulnerability to it that makes you lower your guard. These letters address the boyfriends character flaws, general brokenness and shitty things they did to her. Escoria discusses why they DIDN'T make it and the further you read that section, the clearer it gets that they spoke of her fractured self as much as they spoke of theirs, like pieces of puzzles that don't go together. Juliet Escoria is a patient, clever and EXTREMELY generous writer who gradually bares herself to whoever pays attention to what she's trying to do.
Witch Hunt never really felt like poetry to me. It's more like a fractured journal. A cipher written by a person too angry and too crushed for conventional prose to express her feelings alone. It's a work of great skill, emotional and intellectual intensity that enraptured me by a sunny afternoon in beautiful Jarry Park, Montreal. It left me reeling like someone I didn't know shared something intimate and dramatic with me. If this is where poetry is going, sign me up! I hadn't read something with so much immediacy and emergency in forever. Juliet Escoria is a major revelation to me. I've heard praise about her work for years, but now I "get" it. Witch Hunt has the creative vision, the raw honest and most important, the burning anger contemporary classics are made of. One of the highlights of my reading year.
Keep breathing fire, Juliet Escoria. The smoke is intoxicating!