A search for identity is the current that runs through Dela Torre, Dani Putney’s intimate reflection of personal family histories.
Both tender and condemning, these poems are conversations with the speaker’s Filipina mother and American father, through which the speaker interrogates and celebrates aspects of their origin. Recalling an American childhood juxtaposed with their mixed-race identity, the speaker searches for recognition in everything from Asian grocery stores to classic art to chromosomes and subatomic particles. Caught between all-American images of Las Vegas, candy shops, and national parks and the mangoes and “Cebu’s finest puff pastry” of the Philippines, the speaker mourns that their “picture of / Asia was painted in / America”—and yet, Dela Torre shows us that remembering the past is an act of love.
“Dela Torre is at once an intricate, explosive indictment of white colonialism and a yearning for familial understanding. Like Lot’s wife, Dani Putney’s speaker looks back to witness destruction—destruction wrought, in this case, by means of fetishization, racial oppression, and interrogation—but like Orpheus, the speaker looks back and locates the beauty of kimchi, Hello Panda biscuits, and queer desire. The lines in Dela Torre are a tightly spun spider’s web with the occasional echo of Putney’s first book, Salamat sa Intersectionality (Okay Donkey Press, 2021). Putney’s sharp turns and crescendos throughout Dela Torre leave the reader breathless. ‘My chromosomes burn in protest,’ writes Putney, and those chromosomes, if they are anything like the words on the page, are as startling and vibrant as a star.”
—Remi Recchia, author of Quicksand/Stargazing
“Dani Putney’s visceral poems wrestle with the body of colonialism, mapping its uneven, asymmetrical terrain through time and place. The poems grapple with a family legacy that crosses oceans and marks the speaker’s own body. Loss and desire permeate these poems, in which can be found the quest for a feeling of belonging that can accommodate the speaker’s capacious sense of self. But as Putney reminds us, ‘Our bodies / exist because we make them.’ A vital hope courses through these poems as the body—in all its fantastic configurations—becomes a site for renewed creation and transformation.”
—Matt Broaddus, author of Two Bolts