Selected by Ross Gay as winner of the inaugural Jake Adam York Prize, Analicia Sotelo’s debut collection of poems is a vivid portrait of the artist as a young woman.
In Virgin, Sotelo walks the line between autobiography and mythmaking, offering up identities like dishes at a feast. These poems devour and complicate tropes of femininity—of naiveté, of careless abandon—before sharply exploring the intelligence and fortitude of women, how “far & wide, / how dark & deep / this frigid female mind can go.” A schoolgirl hopelessly in love. A daughter abandoned by her father. A seeming innocent in a cherry-red cardigan, lurking at the margins of a Texas barbeque. A contemporary Ariadne with her monstrous Theseus. A writer with a penchant for metaphor and a character who thwarts her own best efforts. “A Mexican American fascinator.”
At every step, Sotelo’s poems seduce with history, folklore, and sensory detail—grilled meat, golden habañeros, and burnt sugar—before delivering clear-eyed and eviscerating insights into power, deceit, relationships, and ourselves. Here is what it means to love someone without truly understanding them. Here is what it means to be cruel. And here is what it means to become an artist, of words and of the self.
Blistering and gorgeous, Virgin is an audacious act of imaginative self-mythology from one of our most promising young poets.
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Praise and Prizes
“Sotelo’s best poems are first person . . . She relays experience without evasive disjunction or false coherence. Sotelo’s complicated ambivalence about men who ‘still love girls, but rarely admit it’ is disturbing and authentic.”
“Dazzling . . . [Sotelo] speaks to the heartache of crushes, relationships and a longing for freedom from the expectations amplified by religion and culture.”
“[Sotelo’s] work challenges the two-dimensional feminine stereotype by infusing her female voices, including Ariadne’s, with intellect, wisdom and complications.”
“There are echoes of Sylvia Plath in [Sotelo’s] odes . . . Brutal in execution but with a bitingly humorous undercurrent, this collection lays bare an image of femininity in our society.”
“Virgin gorgeously, sensuously explores the pleasures and problems of the feminine experience. Sotelo’s language is as lush and hot as the inside of a woman’s mouth; her words can feel like a fever, like your eyes will blister if you stare too long at the page. . . . And what a pleasure to be hurt this way, with these words.”
“[A] sexy, magical volume of poetry, in which Ariadne and Theseus and Persephone appear to reflect and refract notions of contemporary American girlhood in the most scintillating manner possible.”
“Virgin introduces readers to a young, Mexican-American feminist narrator who is sarcastic and unafraid, curious and self-discovering, and interested in everything from unrequited love and heartbreak to un-romanticized sex and the historically fraught terrain of virginity, and so much more. Analicia Sotelo dives headfirst into the complexities of the female experience and mind, and you’re going to love her for it.”
“Sotelo explores the power of mythologizing personal history in her striking debut. . . and from the start [she] cultivates intimacy through moments of vulnerability. . . . With humanity and raw honesty, Sotelo finds fresh ways to approach romance, family, and more.”
“A significant debut. . . . Sotelo’s poetry reveals the weight of desire, how our hearts drag our bodies. . . . Imbued with Catholic cultural touches, Sotelo mines the Marian paradox with complexity, grace, and power.”