On each page, the tension is felt between the speaker and the world through which they move, as they must negotiate the rigid social expectations which dictate ways of being (“you look so pretty when you’re straight”) and the consequences for existing (“your blood is already out the back door”). However, joy and liberation are found in moments when the speaker connects with themselves and their community.
Through breaking away from patriarchal prescriptions, the speaker can begin to create a life defined by creativity, equity, joy, and tenderness. Reinvention is in the bones of these poems, as Cottingham plays with form, transforming the written word into roads, train tracks, and cyclones. Although, to move into the future, the speaker must reckon with a complicated past and conflicted family dynamics: “Perhaps I show gratitude best when I am far from everything I once was, the ungrateful immigrant that I am and continue to be.” In one way, the speaker isn’t attempting to compose a new anthem but find their own way to dance to music that sounds like home.
Jasminne Mendez, author of Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays and Poetry, said: “Both alliterative and lyrical, Machete Moon is a brief but poignant collection of poems that sings and haunts us with its searing imagery and creative wordplay. Using scripture, prayer and narrative, Cottingham meditates on everything from hurricanes to hair, from sexuality to the South. In doing so, they take an intimate journey into what it means to live in the South as a Black Dominican ‘daughter’ of immigrants. Here, the poet is not afraid to ask difficult questions such as how do we become who we are meant to be when faced with a world that does not accept us as we are? This book is a testament to the varied experiences and challenges faced by Black Latine across the diaspora and these words an important reminder that as a society, we still have so much more work left to do.”
Machete Moon is available to download for free on the Sundress website: https://www.sundresspublications.com/e-chaps
Texas-born, Afro-Latine poet, editor, performance artist, and educator Arielle Cottingham has toured four continents in five years, giving performances and teaching workshops across Europe, North America, Australia, and Asia. Their work explores the fluidity of intersectional identities and has appeared in multiple literary journals both online and in print. Notable performance spaces have included 48H Neukölln, the Alley Theatre, Glastonbury, the Museum of Old & New Art, and the Sydney Opera House, where they won the title of Australian National Poetry Slam Champion in 2016. Their work has been published in literary journals including Stellium Literary Journal, BOOTH,Pressure Gauge Press, and About Place Journal, and their chapbook, Black and Ropy, was published by Pitt Street Poetry in 2017. They are currently pining for falafel at their desk in Berlin.